Liverpool came out of the (long) international break in a great run of form, having won four matches in a row prior. That stretch vaulted the team from 8th the 2nd in the FA Women’s Championship, and also saw them win their opening group stage match of the Continental Cup.
The task for today was to pick up where they left off as they chase Durham for the top spot. The opponent for the day was Lewes, who entered the match 6th in the table, but just 3 points behind Liverpool in the extremely tight table.
Matt Beard set his side up in the now customary 3-4-3 line up. The back three were the same as always, but Razza Roberts started at right wing back as Charlotte Wardlaw was not in the team at all. Hopefully Wardlaw will be back soon as the youngster has been stellar in the wing back role.
In midfield, Bo Kearns came back in to partner with Ceri Holland meaning Rachel Furness was dropped to the bench. Up top, Yana Daniels got the nod ahead of Ashley Hodson with Rianna Dean still out.
Both teams took a knee to thunderous applause as the game got underway. Rachael Laws was immediately called into action twice. The first time she came out alertly to scoop up a through ball in the first 30 seconds of the match. Her distribution put her in trouble as she played a ball directly to a Lewes attacker, and had to make a save on the resulting shot from distance.
Liverpool came back the other way with the ball for their first spell of possession, and Yana Daniels earned a free kick after some fancy footwork 10 yards outside the box. Bo Kearns struck the free kick well, and it was deflected just wide of the post. She then sent in a dangerous corner that was barely cleared.
The game quickly settled into an open back-and-forth affair as both teams moved the ball well on quick counters. Sophie O’Rourke sent in a dangerous cross for Lewes, but it was just too far ahead of a sliding attacker. Melissa Lawley brought the ball back the other way and slid it to Leanne Kiernan on the right side of the box, but the Irish attacker was just offside.
Liverpool broke through in the 18th minute, and it was Leanne Kiernan scoring in her third consecutive game. While Kiernan scored the goal, it was a beautiful team move. Leighanne Robe sent a wonderful diagonal ball to Razza Roberts, who headed the ball into the path of Melissa Lawley. Lawley took the ball in full stride down the right before sending in a perfect cross for Kiernan to touch home from close distance!
Bo Kearns showed of her skill and tenacity in two moves in quick succession. First, she received a ball on the right side of the box, and sat her defender down after some quick footwork. Kearns sent a great cross in, but it was just touched away before being sent into the net. A minute later Kearns showed up again on the right side of the box by the post to get to the end of a cross. She battled hard for the ball with a defender to win it, then hit a sharp shot from a tight angle that the keeper barely managed to keep out.
Kearns again came close to scoring in the 30th minute. Liverpool attacked swiftly down the left as Ceri Holland played a perfectly weighted through ball for Melissa Lawley to run onto. Lawley send the ball in to Kearns in at the top of the box, and the Scouser quickly shifted the ball onto her left foot. She beat one defender before striking the ball, but the shot was just deflected.
Lewes immediately looked to get back in the game after the Liverpool chance. The visitors forced Rachael Laws into two good saves in the span of a minute, and then hit a shot from distance that beat Laws but caromed off the crossbar.
Liverpool looked to get some control back with a nice spell of possession in the Lewes half. Ceri Holland took a strong shot from the top of the box that was well saved. A few moments later, Melissa Lawley sent in another great cross, this time to Bo Kearns, but the Scouser couldn’t get the right touch on her shot from close distance and it was saved.
Liverpool doubled the lead in the 40th minute, and it was Leanne Kiernan again! This time the play came down the left, with Taylor Hinds sending in the cross. The ball popped out to Kiernan, and the Irish striker’s first touch popped the ball up going away from goal, but she managed to swivel her hips and get her foot around the ball to volley it into the top corner from 12 yards out!
Liverpool barely managed to keep their two goal advantage just before the half. Lewes created a great shooting opportunity on the right that Rachael Laws managed to somehow keep out of the net at the near post. The ball popped up just outside the goalmouth, and Leighanne Robe got a foot to it to sent it away just ahead of a Lewes attacker. It was heart in mouth for Liverpool, but they managed to survive the scare.
The rain started coming down heavily as the second half began. Lewes wasted no time trying to get onto the score sheet, first with a move down the left that saw Taylor Hinds scramble a ball away in the box, and then followed up with a strong shot from the top of the box that Rachael Laws showed strong wrists to hold.
Liverpool came close to scoring a third on two separate occasions just after 50 minutes. A sweeping move down the left saw the ball in just elude Leanne Kiernan by inches for what would have been a sure goal had she gotten a foot to it. Then Yana Daniels sent Ceri Holland through on goal, but the Welsh international saw her 1v1 chance well saved by Shannell Salgado. Holland did have Taylor Hinds to her left for a square ball, but you can’t fault Holland for taking the chance.
Yana Daniels was popping up everywhere, and made a run in behind to chase down a hopeful through ball. Salgado came out, but Daniels got to the ball first just outside the box as the players collided. The ball squirted through, but a defender got back to clear it before Daniels could get back up. Moments later Leanne Kiernan again came close to finishing a hat trick, again being denied by a fabulous save from Selgado after a ball in by Bo Kearns.
After Liverpool almost connected yet again off of a corner kick, Lewes streamed forward with some slick movement and passing. Freyda Ayisi received the ball at the top of the box, dribbled forward and slotted the ball past Rachael Laws, but the ball came back off of the post.
Lewes kept the pressure on after hitting the post and stole the ball back from Razza Roberts. Rachel Laws collected the resulting cross, but took a shoulder to the head from a Lewes attacker. Laws received treatment and was able to continue.
Liverpool made their first change in the 72nd minute. Bo Kearns came off for Rachel Furness to get some fresh legs in the middle of the pitch. Kearns was fantastic in the first half, and nearly scored several times. Just three minutes later Jade Bailey came on for Yana Daniels to get some extra solidity in midfield. Daniels was sensational during the second half.
Leanne Kiernan showed great heart running down ball after ball as Liverpool tried to clear their lines and just knock the ball forward. Rachel Furness managed to slip a ball through that Kiernan could get onto the end of, but Lewes defender Ellie Hack just managed to stay with her to tackle the ball away in the box. It was the last touch of the game for Kiernan as she was replaced by Georgia Walter. Ashley Hodson also game on for Melissa Lawley.
Hodson immediately made her impact felt, playing a good 1-2 with Rachel Furness. Hodson took the return pass and tried a shot from the edge of the box, but it lifted high over the bar.
Lewes keeper Shanell Salgado had to show off her dribbling skills as Georgia Walters pressed her on a back pass into the box. Selgado managed to get past Walters, and then had to keep going with more Liverpool players closing in. She finally got the ball to a teammate and Lewes were able to move the ball up the field and out of danger.
Ceri Holland took a tumble in the 90th minute after challenging for a defensive header. She was able to pop back up and continue as the fourth official showed six minutes of extra time on the board.
Georgia Walters had a fantastic few minutes in extra time. First, she showed great strength to hold the ball in the corner with three Lewes defenders trying to get the ball off of her. She then got into the box and came very close to finishing off two quick moves from Liverpool.
Liverpool managed to see out the last couple of minutes of extra time before the referee blew the whistle for full time. Another great performance from Liverpool against a very game Lewes side. Liverpool stay two points behind Durham, who beat London City 1-0 on the day. The Reds will be in action on Wednesday as they take on Sheffield United in Continental Cup group stage action, and then will host Blackburn Rovers next Sunday in the league.