Liverpool 0 - 1 Reading
Reading: Williams 41’
The day has finally come — the return of the FA WSL and with that, a brand new season for Liverpool Women. A new start, a chance to build on the work done last season and over the summer, and to make a mark on the league. All the talk over the summer has been on how to build on the success and buzz of the Women’s World Cup and with the game being show, live, free, and anywhere (despite some hiccups with the streams), it’s more accessible than ever. Now all the women have to do is play well and keep the fans wanting to come back, and that starts against former Liverpool player Fara Williams and Reading.
The first half started frantic and scrappy, with both teams battling early for the ball and to make a mark on the game. It’s pretty clear both sets of women wanted to get a goal early, and Reading very nearly did that after an incredible shot from Natasha Harding. Anke Preuss made a spectacular save of that, and her first of a the afternoon, early on to make sure Reading didn’t take the lead. Liverpool win a free kick and Melissa Lawley floats in a beautiful cross, but is unable to find anyone to put it away, which would become the story of the rest of the match.
The excitement is almost too much, as Leighanne Robe gets carded for a crunching tackle fifteen minutes in. That kind of desperation is pretty evident in both sides during this first half, as both teams fight to get an early goal and try to put the game away as quickly as possible — even if it means crunching other players. Our leading goal scorer last season Courtney Sweetman-Kirk has plenty of chances in this first half, but not enough time to get a proper touch, and the Reds suffer for it every time they lose the ball (which is often).
Brooke Chaplen proves to be one of the most dangerous players for Reading, as she moves through Liverpool’s defenses and first off two shots that dealt with by Becky Jane and Sophie Bradley-Auckland, to keep Reading from taking the lead. It’d be for naught, though, when Reading win a free kick outside the box at 40 minutes, and Fara Williams takes it.
Naturally, it’s some of that old magic we used to know from Williams and Reading are up by 1. Liverpool struggle to get back into the half with only four minutes to go, and it shows as they grow more and more desperate to find an equalizer before the whistle.
Liverpool come out a bit more composed after the scrappy brutality of the first half. Things seem to have calmed a little for the Reds as well as both teams stretching their shapes a little giving each other a bit more space to work.
That, of course, has slowed the game down a bit and the Women are taking their time to figure things out rather than getting an uncharacteristic frantic start. Liverpool have been doing a bit better making their way into their opponent’s half, but are still unable to finish some of their chances and find an equalizer. It’s a little frustrating with such influential players like Rinsola Babajide and Kirsty Linnet on the bench, but Jess Clarke has been doing her damn best to find Courtney Sweetman-Kirk.
Patience is the name of the game in these first fifteen minutes of the second half, but patience can only take you so far before you need to find that first goal and make sure this doesn’t end in a loss. The biggest problem is that Liverpool are just getting overrun in the midfield, and can’t even get the ball to their influential players on the pitch.
The first change of the game comes in the form of Rinsola Babajide, with Jess Clarke making way for the change. Not a choice I’d have made personally, but that’s why I’m not the manager. The ball keeps getting lost and Reading are running riot over what should be the midfield, finding new and more creative ways to strip the Reds. Fara Williams and Jo Potter are doing the most of that work, but it’s enough to drive Liverpool reactionary. Liverpool make another change at 75 minutes on, bringing on Ashley Hodson for Sweetman-Kirk, hoping to get some more control over the match.
Babajide has a terrific chance, driving into the box and cutting to her left, but her effort goes past the post on the wrong side, and Liverpool have to figure out how to get back into that position once again. A lot of times it’s felt like pure luck that they’ve been able to make it to the opponent’s half. Preuss makes another gasp inducing save, tipping a shot from James over the bar, and then the same player is booked for bringing down Melissa Lawley.
Things are looking a little more optimistic for Liverpool again, but they’re still somehow unable to finish their chances and find an equalizer.
Not an auspicious start to the season for the Red Women, but it could’ve been worse, and there’s definitely things to build on for Liverpool going forward. After all, it’s just the first match of the season and plenty to learn from.