For the first time this season, the Liverpool FC Women’s team came into the match day at the top of the table. Wow, that was quite satisfying to write. Matt Beard’s side traveled to the Northeast to take on mid-table Sunderland.
Liverpool received an injury boost earlier in the week as Charlotte Wardlaw and Megan Campbell returned to training. Wardlaw was fit enough for the bench but not the start, so Razza Roberts continued her rung of games at right wing back. Rachel Furness got her second league start in a row in favor of Bo Kearns, partnering with the ever-present Ceri Holland.
Liverpool started out on the front foot, as has become customary for the side. Yana Daniels sent a cushioned half volley into the box, but the Sunderland keeper come off of her line quickly to punch the ball clear just ahead of an onrushing Leanne Kiernan.
Liverpool came close to opening the scoring just a few minutes later after Yana Daniels earned a free kick five yards outside of the Sunderland box. Ceri Holland curled in a dangerous delivery that bounced just on the edge of the six yard box. Rachel Furness made a back post run to get on the end of the free kick, but her diving header saw the ball just skim off of her head and deflect wide of the post.
While Liverpool started well, it was Sunderland who struck first off of a corner kick. Raza Roberts was in the right place to deal with Emma Kelly’s corner kick, but she misplayed the ball and it bounced off of her heel straight to Emily Scarr. The Sunderland midfielder struck the ball first time, and it found its way through a sea of legs to slot just inside the post in the 17th minute.
Rather than hang their heads, Liverpool immediately got back on the attack to try and find an equalizer. Just a minute after conceding, Ceri Holland played a perfect through ball with the outside of her boot for Leanne Kiernan to run on to. The Irish striker, in imperious goal scoring form, shifted the ball onto her left foot to hold off a defender, but her low shot was well saved by the onrushing keeper, Alison Cowling.
Cowling continued to stand on her head, making a fine diving save after Razza Robert’s cross from the right found the head of Leanne Kiernan in the center of the box. She then tipped Melissa Lawley’s looping volley onto the crossbar as the pressure continued to mount from Liverpool.
The woodwork again came into play to deny Liverpool a goal. A Liverpool corner kick wasn’t fully cleared, and Taylor Hinds sent a cross in to Niamh Fahey’s head, sending the ball looping over the keeper onto the crossbar.
The sustained pressure from Liverpool finally paid off in the 37th minute. Another corner kick was sent in, this time from Melissa Lawley. The Liverpool winger sent the ball deep to the far post, where Rachel Furness sent it back towards the near post with her head. Yana Daniels out-leapt everyone to head the ball in from close range to tie the game 1-1.
Ceri Holland became the third Liverpool player to be denied by the Sunderland crossbar. A pass from Niamh Fahey caromed off the leg of a Sunderland defender, and the ball redirected to Holland outside of the Sunderland box. The Welsh midfielder quickly shifted the ball onto her right foot and unleashed a rocket of a shot that flew past the keeper and clanged off of the crossbar.
With halftime quickly approaching, Liverpool made one last push to try and take the lead. Sunderland were only able to clear a corner kick as far as Nimah Fahey at midfield. The Liverpool skipper quickly sent a pass out right to Rachel Furness, who hit a first time ball the curled into the path of Leanne Kiernan. This time, Liverpool’s number 9 would not be denied, and she sent her shot into the corner of the net to give Liverpool a 2-1 lead at the half.
Liverpool picked up where they left off in the second half, absolutely dominating the proceedings. The Reds had plenty of possession in the opposition half, and Jasmine Matthews saw her header saved on the line in the 56th minute.
Melissa Lawley gave Liverpool their third goal of the night in spectacular fashion just four minutes later. Yana Daniels drove forward towards the Sunderland box, and played a ball wide to the left for Lawley. The winger showed some fancy footwork to freeze her defender, and cut inside from the corner of the box onto her right foot. As soon as she got the ball onto her stronger foot, Lawley sent a looping curler that dropped in just under the crossbar at the far post.
Liverpool had one last good chance on net as they looked to see the game out. It was Lawley again from distance, this time from the right side. Rachel Furness sent a ball wide to Lawley on the right wing, and she hit a hard shot towards the top corner at the near post. Cowling just managed to scramble over and turn the ball around the post.
Liverpool saw the rest of the game out to ensure they would finish the weekend at the top of the table yet again. Matt Beard’s side have now extended their unbeaten run to 12 games.