Manchester United 6 - Liverpool 0
Manchester United: Garcia 6’, Russo 24’, Ladd 41’, Koivisto (OG) 63’, Thomas 72’, Williams 84’
After over a month away from competitive play, the Liverpool FC Women finally return to play with their first match of 2023, sitting ninth in the WSL table. Matt Beard’s side have a tough start to the calendar year, starting off with a trip to third place Manchester United.
To make things even more difficult, the ever-so-important Katie Stengel misses out after taking a knock in training, while this will also be the first match after the surprise retirement of Gilly Flaherty. Gemma Bonner slides into a starting role in place of Flaherty in her return to the Reds. Yana Daniels is given the starting not in place of Stengel up top, flanked by Melissa Lawley and Shanice van de Sanden. One of Liverpool’s new midfield signings, Sofie Lundgaard, is on the bench to start, but it is too soon for Fuka Nagano, who just signed yesterday.
Our first line-up of 2023 is in ⚪#MUNLIV pic.twitter.com/8swWkHNxg4— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) January 15, 2023
The Liverpool players are wearing black arm bands in remembrance of Gilly Flaherty’s father, who passed away suddenly in December. The bands are also to honor the memory of Beth Mead’s mother, who recently passed away from cancer (editor’s note: fuck cancer).
We will be wearing black armbands this afternoon, at the request of our players, following the sad passing of Gilly Flaherty’s father, John and Beth Mead’s mother, June ❤️ pic.twitter.com/zEWrmzZ10f— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) January 15, 2023
Manchester United kick off the first half to get the match underway in what look to be some rainy and blustery conditions.
Liverpool get an early foray forward through Shanice van de Sanden on the right flank. She carries the ball deep into the Manchester United half, but her low cross doesn’t have any bend to it and is easily collected by goalkeeper Mary Earps.
Manchester United then race forward after winning the ball in midfield with some quick passing. Ella Toone runs onto the ball outside the box and tries a shot from distance, but it fall just over the crossbar.
Liverpool are under immense pressure, and struggle to clear their lines. Ona Battle collects the ball on the right flank and drives a cross into the box where it is met first time by Lucia Garcia. Her shot takes a deflection off of Gemma Bonner and squeaks past Rachael Laws for a goal in just the 6th minute.
Manchester United smell blood in the water and immediately win the ball back off of the kick off. This time they work the ball to the left flank where Ella Toone rips a shot across the face of goal, going just barely wide of the far post. There has been way too much space on the flanks for the Manchester United players to drive into the box and get crosses off.
Liverpool win a free kick in their own half, and take it quickly to jumpstart a counter attack through Melissa Lawley. She earns a corner kick, and the Reds are able to hold the ball in the zone, but a through ball for Shanice van de Sanden is overhit and runs out for a goal kick.
Liverpool are able continue some attacking momentum and earn a throw in from the right side midway in the Manchester United half. Megan Campbell launches the ball into the box, and Liverpool are able to win the second and third ball in a scramble, but the resulting cross is cleared away.
Manchester United again has a long spell of possession and pressure in Liverpool’s half. Matt Beard’s side drops deep into a low block, but offer little pressure on the ball, allowing Manchester Untied to move the ball at will. When Liverpool do get the ball, they either drive it long to clear it, or turn it over. One such turnover from Ceri Holland is quickly played into the path of Alessia Russo, who lashes the ball past Rachael Laws and just inside the far post for a 2-0 lead.
Liverpool make a quick attempt to get a goal back through Yana Daniels. The Belgian tries to catch Earps off her line with a shot from distance, but the ball goes just over the bar. The Reds follow up with some decent attacking play, and eventually win a throw in on the left side. Megan Campbell again launches the ball into the box, and Niamh Fahey is able to get on the end of it. Her shot is tame, however, and easily collected by Earps.
Liverpool are looking pretty terrible. Just slow and lethargic, always second best to the ball even when they are closer than a Manchester United player. The Reds are also slow with the ball, and turning it over at an alarming rate. Yet another poor turnover in their own half off of an attempted clearance falls to Ona Battle. The defender crosses the ball from the right flank to Hayley Ladd on the left side of the box. Ladd outjumps two Liverpool defenders and heads the ball back across the goal and into the net for a 3-0 lead. On the replay it looks like Ladd may have been off, but there is no VAR in the WSL to save Liverpool’s bacon.
Just to round out an awful first half, Shanice van de Sanden is shown a yellow card for clopping the heels of Nikita Parris in an attempt to break up a counter. The referee blessedly blows the whistle a couple of minutes later to end the first half bloodbath.
According to the laws of the game, we have to play the second half of this match rather than abandoning the match and letting us all get on with the rest of our day. Sigh.
Matt Beard makes one change to at the start of the second half, with Missy Bo Kearns entering for Shanice van de Sanden. Liverpool kick off to get us back underway, and it looks like a shift in formation. Kearns steps into midfield with Holland and Matthews, leaving Daniels and Lawley as the two attacking players.
Ceri Holland does well to press high, and earns a free kick just a few yards outside the top of the box on the left side of the goal. Missy Bo Kearns goes for goal with the kick, but sends the ball wide of the near post.
Liverpool stay on the attack, and a lofted cross from Melissa Lawley finds Taylor Hinds at the far post. Hinds wins the header, but the ball deflects off of a defender and out for a corner. Liverpool retain possession off of a half clearance, and it again comes to Hinds on the left. She drives forward with the ball and tries a low cross, but it is cut out by Earps at the near post.
Gemma Bonner makes a lunging tackle deep in the Manchester United half in an attempt to keep the ball in the attacking zone. She is shown a yellow card for her efforts.
Holland again wins a free kick after a good high press. The free kick is sent into the box by Megan Campbell towards Gemma Bonner, who looks to have won a corner kick. The lineswoman raises her flag for offside, however.
The good vibes could only last for so long, sadly. Ona Battle again is given too much time on the right flank, and she is able to pick out Millie Turner in the middle of the box. Turner hits the ball first time, and it takes a big deflection off of Emma Koivisto and the ball goes past Laws yet again for a 4-0 lead. Koivisto will be credited with an own goal, though there was little she could do about that one with the ball hitting off of her from close range.
Matt Beard makes his second change of the match after the goal. Sofie Lundgaard is given her Liverpool debut as she comes in in place of Taylor Hinds. Lundgaard steps into midfield with Jasmine Matthews dropping into central defense, and Megan Campbell kicks out to left wing back.
Ugh. Pain. Martha Thomas comes on for Lucia Garcia and scores almost immediately. Manchester United hit Liverpool on the counter and Ella Toone plays a perfect sweeping pass from left to right into the path of Thomas. She makes no mistake with her first time strike, slamming it past Rachael Laws for the fifth goal of the game.
A few minutes later Gemma Bonner and Yana Daniels are withdrawn from the match. Leighanne Robe and Rachel Furness come on in their place for the last 15 minutes of the match.
Liverpool look to charge forward in search of a consolation goal, with Missy Bo Kearns moving the ball down the left. Melissa Lawley is in an advanced position and starts to make a run to the left before pulling away and staying more central. Kearns reads the initial run and plays it into space down the left, but it runs out of play after Lawley alters her run.
Sigh, another terrible turnover deep in their own half, and another goal conceded by Liverpool. This time is is Missy Bo Kearns with the turnover, and a cross finds the head of Rachel Williams, who nods it into the net despite a touch from Rachael Laws. 6-0 to Manchester Untied.
Carla Humphrey comes on for the last few minutes in place of Ceri Holland.
For some reason, they decide to add four minutes of extra time instead of just putting Liverpool out of their misery. I just want it to stop.
Mercifully the final whistle blows before Manchester United can find a seventh goal.
Well that was a truly terrible way to start the calendar year. Liverpool were decidedly second best all day, and were roundly beaten by a much sharper and more energetic Manchester United side. The only consolation for the Reds was that Reading also lost, leaving Liverpool still a point ahead in the table. Otherwise, ick.