Real football has finally returned with the end of another international break, this time bringing our women’s teams back into action. Liverpool Women will head down south to face Tottenham Hotspur Women (and Vicky Jepson!) on Sunday, eager to restart the momentum following their win against Sunderland in the Continental Tyres League Cup.
The league, of course, has been a mixed bag with an emphatic win against Chelsea one week, and a disappointing loss to Everton the next.
“I was delighted with the reaction from the players in our last outing away at Sunderland in the Continental Tyres League Cup. We played well, got the win and could have scored more goals, so that was very pleasing,” manager Matt Beard wrote in his column ahead of the match.
“I thought it was a disciplined performance overall, we had a lot of the ball and I felt we controlled the game in all phases.
“The encouraging thing for me was that we were creating the opportunities and we were patient with our play. We managed the team well in the sense of minutes for players who needed them, as well as protecting the ones that were going away with their countries as well.
“It was a good exercise for us and we got a lot out of it over the course of the 90 minutes.”
A 0-1 victory away is nothing to sniff at, the lone goal coming from a Megan Campbell free kick. The group ahead indeed is difficult with Leicester and Blackburn still to come - with Leicester City smack in the middle of Arsenal and Manchester City in the league. A win is a win and enough confidence to carry through that difficult period, hopefully.
“It’s good to start with a win in the competition too because we are in a tough group this season and Sunderland is not an easy place to go and play – they are very well organised and aggressive,” Beard continued.
“The biggest thing for me to take out of the game was the commitment level within the performance. We responded well to some of the uncharacteristic traits we showed against Everton at Anfield the week prior.
“It was a brilliant free-kick from Megan Campbell and she is so dangerous at set-plays. I was delighted for her because she has created a lot of goals for us.
“Meg has got a wonderful left foot, she puts great corners in as well with pace on the ball and we have a lot of height in our team, which makes it difficult for teams to defend against us.”
Injuries have already caused some problems for the Red Women, though, as goal scorer Leanne Kiernan is out for a while with an ankle injury, and Shanice van de Sanden joining her. Beard is also potentially preparing for more.
“We now head to Tottenham in the Barclays Women’s Super League and we will be keeping our fingers crossed that the players return in good shape after the international break,” the manager wrote.
“Obviously Wales have had an intense camp with what was at stake and Ireland had a tough game against Scotland, so we are just going to have to wait and see how everyone comes back.
“The last time we had the internationals, Ceri Holland returned with a problem and Rhiannon Roberts had issues with her hip and groin, so we’ve got to be careful and will assess them carefully.”
Even with last season’s run of form in the Championship division, there was no expectation of ease from this division - especially from a team like Tottenham - and Beard is well aware of that fact.
“Tottenham have progressed year in, year out, and they have done well – their squad has got stronger with every passing season,” Beard added.
“They were right in the reckoning for a top-three finish last season before it got away from them slightly. But they are consistent and they are organised, so it will be another good test for us as a group. We played against them last season in the Continental Cup, so we know a little bit about them.
“I have always said there are no easy games in this division and we will do what we always do: be prepared and set up to try to get three points.”
There is still plenty of women’s football to play, with only two matches in the league so far due to the disruption at the start of the campaign, and Beard knows that the only way through it is to be consistent.
“We know we can compete in this division. We proved it in pre-season and we proved it with the three points we got in our opening game against Chelsea,” Beard emphasized.
“The biggest challenge we will have over the course of this season is the consistency in the performance level, just because of the level of the opposition we are up against. The Championship is a really tough league to get out of, but we had a lot of the ball against teams in that division last season, and I have had to tweak one or two things this campaign.
“It’s like anything in football, it takes a little bit of time to find your feet again and find that consistency and it is no truer than in your performance level.
“Like I have said previously, we are going to have ups and downs over the course of the season but we know we have a team that can compete in all areas.”
Liverpool next face Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, October 16th.