Arsenal 0 - 1 Liverpool
Liverpool: Taylor 48’
The Liverpool FC Women get their WSL season underway with a very difficult task, away to title challengers Arsenal. The match was played in front of over 50,000 fans at the Emirate Stadium, which made for a fantastic atmosphere.
On the pitch, LFC manager Matt Beard was forced to go with a slimmed down squad as several players were out with injury or illness, with reports of a covid outbreak in the squad. Rachael Laws retained the starting gloves over new signing Teagan Micah, but there were several other players who earned their first cap for the club. Grace Fisk and Jenna Clark started in the center of defense alongside stalwart Gemma Bonner. Marie Höbinger also got her first competitive action for the Reds, playing as part of a side with five midfielders and no recognized striker. Sophie Roman Haug missed out after suffering a face injury on international duty, while Natasha Flint and Mia Enderby started the match as part of a five person bench.
Our first line-up of the 2023/24 #BarclaysWSL season— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) October 1, 2023
Almost a nightmare start for the Reds (wearing their purple third kit) as they try to work the ball out of the back with some quick passing less than a minute into the match. An errant pass goes directly to an Arsenal player, who turns Fuka Nagano on the edge of the box, but the resulting cross was turned behind for a corner. Liverpool have to defend two quick corners in a row, but just managed to clear their lines.
Missy Bo Kearns and Miri Taylor start out the match playing the furthest forward as the nominal strikers. It will be interesting to see if Liverpool can generate any sort of attack with the bevy of midfielders but dearth of actual strikers on the pitch.
Grace Fisk shows some quick feet to clear a deflected ball out for a corner as it was headed for the goal. Liverpool again has to deal with two corner kicks in quick succession, but again averted danger.
Liverpool are looking to play their way past the high press with quick passes out to the wing backs and then back in to midfielders, but the Reds keep misplaying the ball while in their own half. It’s nice to see patterns of play emerging, but Liverpool are going to be punished eventually if they continue to turn the ball over in dangerous areas.
Liverpool make their first foray into the Arsenal half in the 13th minute, but promptly are crowded off the ball with only a few players forward in support. Arsenal counter quickly and Gemma Bonner is forced to step across and turn the ball behind for Arsenal’s fifth corner kick of the match.
Liverpool show signs of attacking life in the 19th minute after finally working the ball past the press and out of their own half. Taylor Hinds plays the ball in to Marie Höbinger, and the midfielder turns and spies the run of Ceri Holland down the right channel. Höbinger sends a great diagonal ball over the defenders for Holland to run on to, and the Welsh midfielder hits the ball first time on the volley. Her shot is on target, but lacks any real power to trouble Manuela Zinsberger in net.
Arsenal again attack quickly after Liverpool had worked the ball forward, again quickly getting the ball into an advanced area. A cross was sent in for Lotte Wubben-Moy, who headed the ball towards to goal, but Rachael Laws was on hand to make a fantastic save.
Rachael Laws comes sliding out to collect a ball ahead of an Arsenal attacker and comes up holding her hand. Play is stopped for a minute as she is evaluated, but the veteran goalkeeper is able to continue.
Liverpool earn their first corner of the match in the 28th minute after some good work from Missy Bo Kearns. The Reds send up their tall trio of center backs, but the set piece ran all the way through to the far side past everyone. Liverpool maintained control of the ball and sent a lofted cross into the box. Manuela Zinsberger collided with one of her own defenders and dropped the ball, and it fell to the feet of Taylor Hinds. The Liverpool captain unfortunately saw her quick shot blocked.
Liverpool are growing into the match now, and keep some sustained attacking pressure on. Ceri Holland turns away from a defender outside the D and is hauled down for a Liverpool free kick. Missy Bo Kearns steps to take the set piece, and sends a shot curling over the wall but just past the near post. Zinsberger was scrambling to get across and looked to have been beaten to the post.
Arsenal earn their 10th corner kick of the first half in the 36th minute, and the Reds are slow to step to the ball that is only half cleared. Frida Maanum steps up and hits the ball on the volley, but Rachael Laws is again up to the task and makes a good save to keep the ball out of the net.
Racheal Laws is having a hell of a match so far. Arsenal again break forward after Liverpool turn the ball over with an errant pass, and Kim Little strides forward and takes a shot from the edge of the box. Laws makes a diving save, parrying the ball wide of the post.
Liverpool get one last attacking sequence before the end of the half, with Taylor Hinds beating her defender to the end line before sending in a tantalizing cross. The ball is cleared to the top of the box where Fuka Nagano is on hand to hit the ball on the volley, but her shot skews well wide of the net.
That’s the last action of the half as the referee blows for the break. Liverpool have defended well as a unit under a lot of pressure, and Racheal Laws has stepped up to make some fantastic saves to keep Liverpool in this one. The Reds have shown enough going forward to keep Arsenal on their toes and even nick a goal.
LIVERPOOL SMASH AND GRAB A GOAL TO OPEN THE SECOND HALF!!!!! Marie Höbinger starts the play off, and works the ball to Missy Bo Kearns on the right side of the box. The Scouser gets to the end line before playing a cut back that comes through and finds Miri Taylor. The striker-for-the-day calmly collects the ball and slides it just inside the far post to give Liverpool the 1-0 lead! That was Miri Taylor’s first goal for the Reds as well, not a bad way to open your account.
Arsenal are ramping up the pressure again, and Taylor Hinds has to touch the ball behind for yet another Arsenal corner. Yet again, Liverpool do just enough to clear their lines from the set piece. That was the 12th corner kick that Arsenal have won so far.
Arsenal earned (you guessed it) another corner kick, and Liverpool were flailing as they attempted to clear the ball. An Arsenal player went down in the box, but it was from little if any contact, and the referee was not interested in awarding a penalty. Arsenal worked the ball around to the left flank, and a deep cross was sent in for Cloé Lacasse, but the Canadian’s header from close range went behind the goal.
It’s another Liverpool debut as Matt Beard made his first substitution in the 67th minute after the Reds weathered a storm of corner kicks. He sends in striker Natasha Flint for goal scorer Miri Taylor. Flint should help provide some aerial ability on both ends of the pitch.
Official attendance was just announced at 54,115 which is a new WSL record! Great to see such a fantastic crowd and atmosphere in the opening match of the season.
Marie Höbinger goes down and needs treatment in the 72nd minute. She’s able to get up and walk off, but Matt Beard elects to bring on youngster Mia Enderby in her stead. Presumably Missy Bo Kearns will drop into midfield with Enderby up top alongside Natasha Flint.
Rachael Laws comes out quickly to collect a through ball ahead of an attacker and stays down after. Play is stopped for a minute as she receives treatment, but she is again able to continue. We’ll chalk this one up to some veteran gamesmanship.
Liverpool earn a throw in far up the left side of the pitch. Taylor Hinds steps over takes the throw, but is shown a yellow card for time wasting.
Liverpool make two final changes in the 80th minute. Sophie Lundgaard comes on for Missy Bo Kearns while Academy product Lucy Parry comes in for captain Taylor Hinds. Ceri Holland takes the armband with Hinds off.
Emma Koivisto becomes the next player to go in the book as she slows down a counter with a foul. The free kick is played down the line, catching Liverpool napping. The ball is played in and loops off of a couple of players and just over the crossbar.
Multiple Liverpool players go down haver some heavy challenges, but Arsenal continue to play on. Liverpool eventually win the ball back and put it out of play. Ceri Holland has stayed down and looks to be in some pain as the medical staff come out to check on her. As she is seen to, the fourth official holds up 10 minutes of extra time.
Holland is back up and able to continue as Liverpool look to see the match out. They’ll have some serious defending to do as Arsenal throw everything forward for an equalizer.
Liverpool very happy to play the ball anywhere as long as it is away from their goal. No-nonsense balls sent deep down field or out of play as the clock ticks up to the 97th minute.
One of the balls forward falls to striker Mia Enderby. The youngster takes the ball on the dribble down the wing past a defender and into the box. She tries to find Natasha Flint at the far post, but her ball is just cut out, and the clearance is touch away before it can find Ceri Holland lurking at the edge of the box.
Liverpool clearing long balls as they come forward, just waiting for the final whistle AND THERE IT IS!!!
Wow, what a way to start the season! After not winning an away match last season, Matt Beard brings a short-handed side in front of 54,115 fans against a team with title aspirations and steals the win. While Arsenal had the lions share of possession, it was a deserved win for the Reds.