Liverpool 0 - 0 Arsenal
Arsenal: Walti 15’, Maanum 22’
Liverpool have a stern task ahead of themselves today, taking on an undefeated Arsenal side that is flying high after thrashing the reigning UCL champions Lyon 5-1 in a midweek match. Matt Beard’s side played better in the second half against Spurs last weekend, but fell 1-0. The Reds made two changes to the starting lineup from their last match with Ceri Holland returning to a starting midfield role, while Megan Campbell gets a starting nod. Missy Bo Kearns and Rachel Furness dropped to the bench. Campbell slotted into the left central defense role, with Jasmine Matthews pushing up into midfield with Holland.
Liverpool got the match started on the front foot, intercepting a pass and working the ball up the left side of the pitch. Melissa Lawley got a step on her defender and put a nice cross into the box that Arsenal scramble out for a corner kick. It came to nothing, but a great sign that Liverpool were up for making a match of it.
Arsenal got their first sight of goal in the 10th minute after a lofted cross came to Beth Mead on the right side of the box. Megan Campbell did well to get across and block the shot out for a corner.
Caitlin Foord was a whisker away from opening the scoring for Arsenal in the 13th minute after some great ball movement by the Gunners, but she just can’t get a touch on the ball fizzed across the face of goal.
Just a minute later, however, Liverpool were not so lucky. Arsenal earned another corner kick, and the initial clearance only went as far as Lia Walti near the top of the box. The midfielder did brilliantly to bring the ball down and hit a low, driven shot that somehow eludes all the bodies in the box to find the far corner.
Liverpool had an immediate response after conceding, pushing forward with the ball in a nice attacking move. Yana Daniels put a great ball into the box after a recovery by Katie Stengel, but no one was able to get on the end of the ball as it bounced around. Arsenal immediately hit on the counter, slicing through the Liverpool midfield and defense. The ball came to Frida Maanum on the left edge of the box, and she shrugged off a challenge from Niamh Fahey as she drove towards goal, and then ripped a shot past Rachael Laws to give Arsenal a 2-0 lead in the 22nd minute.
Arsenal immediately got on the attack again, moving the ball through Liverpool with too much ease. They got a shot off that blessedly hits the far post and stays out of the net.
Liverpool again were turning the ball over way too easily, especially in defense. Too many times passes were sent out of bounds or wayward of their intended target, keeping the Reds under pressure in their own half.
Liverpool did continue to look for their first goal from open play as the first half wore on. Katie Stengel earned a free kick with some great work to hold the ball up, and Liverpool earned a corner kick off of it that was easily cut out by the keeper. Just moments later, a deep cross from the right was awkwardly dealt with by Arsenal for another corner, and Liverpool again caused some problems initially in the box before the ball was scrambled away.
Liverpool closed out the half with another attacking movement, earning a corner kick as the clock ticked into extra time. Megan Cambell put a good ball into the box and it was half cleared. Ceri Holland recovered the ball and sent it to Emma Koivisto on the right flank, who sent a lofted ball into the box. Katie Stengel went up to challenge for the header, and the back of her head collided with the face of goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger. The keeper required treatment, but was able to continue.
Liverpool got off to a very bright start to the second half. Megan Campbell showed a nice bit of skill to take the ball past a defender and get down the left sideline. She sent the ball into the box, and it was poorly dealt with by the Arsenal defense, with a miskicked ball hitting the outstretched arm of a defender. No penalty was given, but the ball came to Emma Koivisto in front of goal, but her reactive shot went right at the goalkeeper. It was Liverpool’s first shot and first shot on target of the match.
Liverpool made several attempts to play the ball out of the back that almost led to disaster. Too many times the Reds put themselves under unnecessary pressure with some poor passing deep in their own half.
Megan Campbell earned a throw in on the left side in the attacking half. Liverpool fans got on their feet anticipating the long throw, and they were not disappointed with the chaos created in the box. Katie Stengel got something on the ball, but could only guide it out for a goal kick.
Liverpool made their first substitution in the 71st minute. Missy Bo Kearns came on for Yana Daniels, who put in a good shift on the right.
Rachael Laws made a huge save after another poor turnover by Liverpool. Melissa Lawley was slow to play the ball near midfield, facing her own goal, and got crowded off of it. Arsenal had an extra player on the break, and did well to thread the ball to Caitlin Foord on the left side of the goal, but Laws came out quickly to make a smart 1v1 save.
Liverpool came close from a corner kick. Missy Bo Kearns sent a great ball in that Niamh Fahey got a head to, but it skimmed off the shoulder of a defender and deflected just wide of the post. Fahey got another chance moments later after a second corner kick was half cleared and the ball was recycled by Liverpool. The ball came to the Irish skipper at the top of the box, but her left-footed shot went just wide of the post.
Is Niamh Fahey secretly a striker? She again somehow ended up near the top of the box from open play, and did a fantastic job to hit a shot on the volley. She got great dip and curve on the ball, but it unfortunately ended up going straight at the keeper.
Rachel Furness entered the fray in the 83rd minute. She came on for Melissa Lawley in the left forward role.
Missy Bo Kearns burst forward with the ball after Liverpool did well to defend a corner kick. She led a counter, carrying the ball from the edge of her own box all the way midway into the Arsenal half. She picked out a good through ball to Katie Stengel near the left edge of the Arsenal box, but the American just couldn’t get her foot to the ball to control it. Megan Campbell ran the ball down before it went out, but her cross was claimed by the keeper with no other Liverpool players in the box.
Matt Beard made two more late changes. Razza Roberts came on for Megan Campbell, and Leighanne Robe for Taylor Hinds as the clock ticked over into extra time.
Right off the restart after the subs, Arsenal immediately broke through the Liverpool defense. Rachael Laws again came up with a huge save, this time on Beth Mead, to keep Arsenal out of the net in the second half.
Seconds later, Beth Meade had another gilt-edged chance that was left wanting. Liverpool had yet another turnover that turned into an Arsenal counter, and Caitlin Foord put in a delicious cross from the left. Mead got a foot to the ball from inside the 6-yard box, but could only put it over the bar. That was the last significant action of the match.
It’s hard to feel too positive about losing 2-0, but that was the strongest performance Liverpool have had for an entire game. There are still plenty of things to clean up, with turnovers in the defensive half yet again proving to be an issue for the Reds, but Liverpool were much more positive with the ball in the first half. It still took until the second half to get a shot off, however.
Liverpool will now have a rare midweek match as they take on Leicester City in Continental Cup play.