Liverpool FC Women’s team manager Matt Beard knew there was one goal this season when he was hired - win the FA Women’s Championship to earn promotion back to the WSL. To this point, things have gone exactly to plan.
In their 15th game of league play, Liverpool dispatched Sunderland 3-0. It was the 14th game in a row that Liverpool have remained unbeaten, leading to Liverpool holding a 10 point lead at the top of the table with 7 matches left to play.
“It was a tough game and we had to be patient because Sunderland set up to frustrate us and the ball was in the air a lot,” said Beard after the match.
“We didn’t use the ball well enough in the first half. We were a bit too slow at times and over-complicated the game a little bit. Sunderland are a team that work hard, they have a good work ethic and are tough, but we made one or two tactical changes at half-time.”
While Beard and the coaching staff may have tweaked the tactics, earning a penalty and seeing a defender sent of for Denial of a Goal Scoring Opportunity to open the second half probably had the larger impact.
“We got the early penalty within two minutes off the back of that, which was really pleasing, and once we got in front it wasn’t comfortable but we needed that second goal just to kill the game off because they were dangerous on the counter-attack.”
Liverpool did manage to score a second late in the game to give themselves breathing room, and then iced it with another penalty just before full time. Katie Stengel earned both of the spot kicks, and converted the first one herself. Missy Bo Kearns stepped up to take the second one of the game. Beard said he was happy for the players to sort it out on the pitch as to who takes the kicks.
“I’m happy for people to make decisions by themselves. Katie scored our first penalty but Missy Bo wanted to take this one. Katie let her take it and she scored. At the end of the day it shows confidence from Missy Bo and we are just glad it went in.”
Despite scoring three goals, it was a tight game all the way up to the 85th minute. Beard lauded his experienced goalkeeper, Rachael Laws, for making some key saves to keep Sunderland off of the scoresheet. It was the 10th shutout for Laws this season, breaking the club record that she herself previously held.
“Lawsy was fantastic again because they could have gone 1-0 up and she made one or two decent saves for us. I’m delighted for her because she has been absolutely fantastic for us and she deserves this record. She deserves a special mention and she is very influential for us with her distribution and her experience.”
While it wasn’t one of their more dominant wins, the Liverpool manager was happy to earn another three points, no matter how they came.
“When we get to this time of the year it’s about winning football matches. Our performances overall have been fantastic, but you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and you are going to have some wonderful displays like Blackburn away and then a tough game like Sunderland. We weren’t at our best but we kept a clean sheet and we won the game. I know better than anyone it’s just about winning games at this business end of the season.”