Matt Beard and his Liverpool FC Women’s side finally returned to action over the weekend to take on Burnley in the Vitality FA Women’s Cup. The Reds last played three weeks ago prior to yet another extended international break for the Women. With such a long time off, Matt Beard put out a strong team to get his squad back in rhythm.
Two players were named to the team sheet for the first time this season. Newly signed goalkeeper Charlotte Clarke was on the bench in support of Rachael Laws, and defender Megan Campbell was also on the bench after returning from an injury sustained during preseason. Leanne Kiernan and Rianna Dean were still out with injuries, so Ashley Hodson was given the start in attack. Beard stuck with the midfield duo of Ceri Holland and Rachel Furness to start the match.
As they often have over the past couple of months, Liverpool got off to a strong start, controlling possession of the ball for long stretches as they patiently probed for spaces in the defense to open up. Burnley did a good job of staying compact and not getting too drawn out, and managed to snuff out Liverpool attacks before the Reds could connect on the final ball.
Liverpool finally broke through in the 38th minute with some fortuitous luck. Melissa Lawley lofted what looked like a hopeful ball into the box, but the Burnley keeper struggled to track the ball in the blinding sun, and she fumbled the ball on the goal line. Rachel Furness was on hand to ensure that the ball crossed the line as Liverpool took the 1-0 lead that they would take into the break.
The Reds made a trio of changes to start the second half. Charlotte Wardlaw, who has been working her way back to match fitness, came on in place of Razza Roberts at right wing back, while Meikayla Moore came on in the center of defense for Leighanne Robe. Missy Bo Kearns entered the fray in midfield for Ceri Holland as well.
It didn’t take Liverpool too long to find their footing in the second half, and they doubled their lead in the 57th minute. Jasmine Matthews sent a strong pass into the box that Rachel Furness did brilliantly to settle with her first touch and slot home with her second touch.
Just after the goal, Megan Campbell made her Liverpool debut, coming on in place of Jasmine Matthews.
Liverpool continued to push forward in the attack, and earned a corner in the 77th minute. Melissa Lawley sent the ball to the near post where captain Niamh Fahey sent a glancing header past everyone and into the net to give Liverpool a 3-0 lead.
The Reds were not done, however, and the last goal belonged to Melissa Lawley. With just three minutes left in regulation, Yana Daniels did a great job to get the ball to the end line and cut it back. The ever dangerous Lawley latched onto the pass and coolly slotted it home. Lawley would end the game involved in three of the four Liverpool goals.
Liverpool will now have a quick turn around as they head to Sheffield on Wednesday to take on Sheffield United in the last group stage match in the FA Women’s League Cup. A win for Liverpool will guarantee that they advance to the knock out rounds, with a draw also likely to be enough.
The match on Wednesday will be Liverpool’s last competitive fixture of the calendar year after their league match against Charlton Athletic scheduled for Sunday was postponed. Charlton had a previously postponed FA Cup match moved to Sunday, so the league match will be made up in February or March.