The Liverpool FC Women’s side came into their match up with Sheffield United with some momentum. After Matt Beard changed his side to a 3-4-3 formation, his team ripped off two good wins in a row to move up to third in the table. Sheffield United entered the match in the second spot in the table, tied with Liverpool on points. The Blades boasted a potent attack, featuring former Reds Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Jess Clarke.
The match took place at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane, home to the Men’s team. There were a league record 4,100 fans in attendance to see the clash between two top sides in the division.
Matt Beard had his side again lined up in a 3-4-3 formation. Yana Daniels was given her first start of the season as part of the front three after returning from injury. Rachel Furness was given a start in midfield as Bo Kearns was given some rest, and Niamh Fahey came in to start in the center of the defensive three as well.
As we’ve seen in recent weeks, Liverpool came out an started the first half strong. The Reds quickly got on the attack, and earned a free kick on the left flank just over a minute into the match. Taylor Hinds lofted the ball into the box and found the head of Jasmine Matthews, who had a free header on the edge of the six-yard box. Unfortunately, Matthews couldn’t put the ball on net, instead sending the ball over the crossbar with the goal mouth gaping.
Liverpool showed great patience and composure as Sheffield United attempted to press high up the field. The Reds calmly moved the ball around the back three, waiting for a crease to appear in the press. Once there was a passing lane to players between the lines, Liverpool quickly moved the ball forward into dangerous attacking areas with some clever passing and great movement from the wing backs and the front three.
It didn’t take long for Liverpool to create another scoring chance, and this time they managed to convert. In the seventh minute, Melissa Lawley dropped into the space between Sheffield United’s defense and the midfield to receive a ball, then quickly turned and played the ball to the right wing, where Charlotte Wardlaw had moved into an advanced position. The young right wing back immediately cut inside and carried the ball to the top of the box. She cut the ball back onto her right foot, and then lofted a shot that got over the hand of the leaping Fran Kitching, and dipped just under the crossbar for a sensational goal!
Liverpool continued to control possession, and picked apart the Sheffield United press. Taylor Hinds and Charlotte Wardlaw saw plenty of the ball on the flanks, and the Reds created some great link up play, but just struggled to find the final ball in transition.
As the first half wore on, Sheffield United saw more of the ball, and attempted to create some offense of their own. Liverpool did a great job of keeping their shape in the back, and limited the Blades to mostly speculative efforts from distance. When Liverpool won the ball back in their defensive end, they quickly began the transition back into the attack, looking the more likely side to score.
In the 36th minute, Liverpool move the ball up the field on the left flank. Melissa Lawley sent a cross into the box that went through everyone. Rachel Furness hustled to get to the ball ahead of a defender on the right side of the box, turned the ball back away from goal, then quickly pivoted and whipped in a cross of her own with her left foot. Leanne Kiernan immediately broke towards the back post to meet the ball with her head to send it into the net from close range! It was the second game in a row that Furness fed Kiernan for a headed goal.
Liverpool continued to flow forward with the ball at every opportunity as the half wound down, and came very close to scoring a third. Yet again, the ball moved forward on the flank, with Taylor Hinds starting the move on the left in her own half before feeding Melissa Lawley in the middle. Lawley continued to drive across the field and found Charlotte Wardlaw just outside the Sheffield United box on the right flank. Wardlaw sent in a dangerous cross towards Leanne Kiernan, but it was flicked away by a Sheffield United defender, but only as far as Taylor Hinds just outside the left corner of the six-yard box. Hinds immediately hit a shot towards the near post, but Fran Kitching was just able to get down to keep the ball from crossing the line. The ball rebounded out to Leanne Kiernan, but her snapshot was again saved by the heroics of Kitching on the line.
Liverpool took their 2-0 lead into the half in what was one of their most scintillating halves of football all season. The second half was a bit more of a back and forth affair as Sheffield United tried to make a game of it, though Liverpool continued to absorb pressure without giving up many good looks at goal. For their part, Liverpool never showed complacency going forward, and continued to carve out opportunities.
Taylor Hinds and Leanne Kiernan both got shots off early in the second half. Hinds hit a drive from distance that Fran Kitching was able to smother, and then Leanne Kiernan was again the target of a Charlotte Wardlaw cross, but the ball was just behind her and the header was steered wide.
Liverpool again came within inches of scoring were it not from some goal line defending. Substitute Bo Kearns sent a corner kick in from the left side, and was flicked on to the back post by Yana Daniels. A Sheffield United defender stationed on the line by the post was just able to scramble the ball away. The ball bounced around by the goal before it was knocked out to the top of the box where it was met by Ceri Holland. The Welsh international’s shot went well over the bar, however.
Liverpool had one last chance late in the game, again showing their prowess on the break. Ceri Holland made a fantastic sliding challenge on the edge of her own box, and poked the ball to Bo Kearns who was charging forward. Kearns strode forward with the ball the length of the field with a defender on her back, and drifted to the right side of the goal as she approached the Sheffield United box. Taylor Hinds had made a lung-busting run down the left, and was just a couple yards behind Kearns with no defender close to her, but Kearns ran out of steam and lashed a shot that flew across the face of goal and wide of the far post instead of centering the ball to Hinds.
Unfortunately, substitute Ashley Hodson was injured at the beginning of the sequence just outside of the Liverpool box. She had to be helped off the field, and looked like she could not bear weight on one of her legs.
The final whistle blew shortly after, and Liverpool completed their most comprehensive performance to day this season with all three points. You can watch the highlights on the FA Player website (free login required).
After the rest of the weekends results concluded, Liverpool now sit second in the table, still just two points behind Durham. Liverpool will have a FA WSL Cup group stage match against Aston Villa on Wednesday before the squads take off for an international break.