Liverpool traveled to Watford on Saturday with both teams in search of their opening win of the season. The Reds dropped a tough 1-0 decision at home to the London City Lionesses the week before, while Watford’s Golden Girls showed to be a scrappy side in a 2-1 defeat to Durham United.
There were a couple of surprises in Matt Beard’s line up. Rachael Laws was not named in the squad, presumably out with an injury. Rylee Foster got the start in net in her place. The defense was the same as the previous week, but Niamh Fahey stepped into the holding midfield role for the injured Jade Bailey. Rachel Furness was also dropped to the bench as she works her way back from a broken leg, and Bo Kearns dropped into a midfield role while Rianna Dean got the start as a wide forward.
Unfortunately, there was no live broadcast of the game, so we’ll have to get what we can from people at the game as well as the match highlights (free account required to view).
Liverpool came out aggressively, and generated several chances early in the game. Rianna Dean did well to win the ball in the attacking half, and squared the ball to Ceri Holland who was making a run from midfield. Holland’s shot was well saved by the onrushing keeper, and the rebound fell to Melissa Lawley, who’s shot was deflected just inches wide of the post.
Liverpool would score their first goal of the season just minutes later from yet another corner kick. Bo Kearns, the Scouser in the team, took the kick from the left, and sent the in-swinger just under the crossbar. The keeper got a touch on it, but not enough to deny Kearns the Olimpico!
Liverpool continued to keep the pressure on, searching for a second goal while they had the momentum. Chelsea loanee Charlotte Wardlaw delivered a fantastic cross from her right back spot, but Rianna Dean’s diving header flashed across the face of goal and went just on the wrong side of the far post.
Dean wouldn’t miss her next chance, however. A deflected pass found its way to Dean just outside the top of the box, and the forward took one touch before blasting a shot into the top right corner of the goal. It was a sensational strike for the 22 year old to open her Liverpool account with, and it gave the Reds a 2-0 lead 30 minutes into the match.
Dean wouldn’t have to wait long to make an impact again. In the 37th minute, Melissa Lawley received a ball from Jasmine Matthews midway into the Watford half. Lawley quickly turned and played a perfectly weighted through ball behind a defender that Dean ran onto. The Liverpool forward’s angled run put the ball on her left foot, but she immediately squared her body and drilled a low effort into the far corner from just inside the box. The ball movement and the runs were sensational on the goal, and the finish was stellar to give Liverpool the 3-0 lead.
The scoreline held at the half as Liverpool looked to have exorcised the demons of their opening match. Caoimhe O’Neill, a writer for the Athletic, was at the match and said that Liverpool dominated the first half, and was especially impressed with how the Reds pressed the ball.
Liverpool have pressed really, really well. They have looked adamant to win every ball and have asserted their dominance throughout this first half.— Caoimhe O'Neill (@CaoimheSport) September 4, 2021
Liverpool had a nervy moment to start the second half as Rylee Foster passed the ball to Watford attacker Rosie Kmita. Foster did well to get down to her right to save the shot from Kmita.
Liverpool continued to press forward, however, and came close to adding to their lead. Both Dean and Leanne Kiernan had opportunities for the Reds, but neither could convert. Liverpool made several changes between the 55th and the 73rd minute.
Razza Roberts joined the fray at center back in place of Leighanne Robe before Carla Humphrey replace Bo Kearns in midfield. Liverpool made two more changes in the 72nd minute, with Rachel Furness replacing Ceri Holland and Ashley Hodson coming on for Melissa Lawley, who went down with a knock. It was the 115th appearance for Hodson, tying Gemma Bonner’s all-time record for the club.
Just a few minutes later, Watford would get their first goal of the match aided by a Liverpool defensive mistake. Razza Roberts cut out a square ball just outside her own box, but her pass forward was off the mark and picked off by Watford’s Anne Meiwald. The Watford player strode forward with the ball before hitting a left-footed shot that hung in the air just long enough to get over Rylee Foster’s outstretched hand.
Liverpool would come close once more. In the 85th minute, Leanne Kiernan sent a cross in to Ashley Hodson, but the substitute’s shot was blocked by a defender.
Watford would close the once commanding gap to just one goal in stoppage time. Razza Roberts tried to flick the ball over Rosie Kmita, but the ball ricocheted off of her chest. Kmita ran the ball down on the left flank and sent a hopeful cross in. Niamh Fahey lost track of Helen Ward, and the Watford player drilled a header past Rylee Foster from close range to make it a 3-2 game.
Liverpool managed to hang on, however, and garnered all three points in their first win of the season. There was plenty to build on from this game as the attack came alive. The goals given up primarily came down to individual defensive errors that can hopefully be corrected in short order. Liverpool will take on Bristol City at home next Sunday.