It has been a rough stretch of games for Liverpool to start their return to the WSL. In their first five games, they have played the teams who currently stand in second through fifth in the table. Despite the difficult schedule, the Reds have started to put together some solid performances, and played their best match of the season against Manchester City despite the result.
Below, we take a look at some winners and losers on the night, and attempt to disentangle narrative from fact.
The American Striker FINALLY got Liverpool’s first goal from open play this season. She has been battling her heart out, often outnumbered in the attack so far this season, and hasn’t seen much in the way of decent looks at goal. Against Manchester City, however, Matt Beard’s side dialed up a high press that saw them create some turnovers high up the pitch, with Stengel burying her chance after taking the ball off of Alex Greenwood’s foot. Stengel now has all three of Liverpool’s goals this season.
Despite giving up two goals, Liverpool did a pretty solid job on the defensive front. Niamh Fahey had the unenviable task of shadowing WSL top-scorer Bunny Shaw, and did a sensational job of limiting the Jamaican’s opportunities. Fahey read the game extremely well, making several perfectly-timed steps to block shots or make and interception. She also won numerous headers ahead of the forward known for being excellent in the air.
Rachael Laws and Megan Campbell also came up huge in massive moments. Laws made several brilliant stops among the six saves she had on the day, including flinging her body across the face of goal to block what seemed to be a certain goal on an open net. Campbell was also Johnny-on-the-spot to clear a chance off the line late in the second half.
Moral victories don’t count for much, but it has been a great sign to see Liverpool start to string together better and better performances. Against Manchester City, Liverpool had their best match of the season despite the score line. Against a team expected to challenge for a Champions League spot, Liverpool played as a cohesive unit, and moved never looked panicked. We saw the Reds finally find their offense in the first half, getting off eight shots, with three of them on goal, including Stengel’s strike the level the score.
Picking Up Points:
With points at a premium, any chance to snag a result is a huge opportunity. With Liverpool trailing late, they had a chance to snatch a late goal after a Megan Campbell throw in caused chaos in the box, and the ball fell to the feet of Jasmine Matthews with the goal mouth gaping just a couple of yards away. Matthews just couldn’t get her feet sorted, and the ball ended up somehow not going in the goal. Moral victories are nice, but missing out on a point is rough.
The injury gods gave us the return of Shanice van de Sanden, only to take away Ceri Holland. The midfield maestro was initially listed in the starting line up, but Matt Beard said she came into warm ups dealing with a groin injury, and she felt something tighten up before kick off. She has been such an vital cog in the team, hopefully she will not be out for any length of time.
After struggling to handle numbers in midfield early in the season with their usual 3-4-3 formation, Matt Beard rolled out a flexible and fluid 3-5-2 against Manchester City. Wide forward Yana Daniels was left on the bench in favor of Missy Bo Kearns to provide an additional player in the center of the pitch. Jasmine Matthews played a holding role with Kearns and Rachel Furness shuttling. The extra player in midfield helped Liverpool with their pressing in the Manchester City half, with the Reds applying pressure higher up the pitch knowing they had support behind them. The pressure created two clear cut chances, including one goal.
What Happens Next
After a very tough stretch of games in October, Liverpool have a much more favorable schedule coming up in November. Matt Beard’s side will host 8th place Aston Villa next Sunday before taking on fellow relegation strugglers Brighton and Reading after an international break.