For the second season in a row, the Liverpool FC Women opened the year with a win over a presumptive title contender. Last year, the Reds went on to lose their next five matches. This year, Matt Beards side followed up their impressive opening win over Arsenal with a fantastic showing against Aston Villa. His side was aggressive from the opening whistle, and deservedly took all three points in a 2-0 win.
Below, we take a look at some winners and losers on the night, and attempt to disentangle narrative from fact.
The Austrian midfielder has settled in quickly into life at Liverpool, and she opened her account for the Reds with a fantastic strike in the 21st minute for what would become the match winner. Höbinger was excellent outside of scoring the goal, she also led the team with 7 progressive passes and 29 progressive carries on the day. She has been a creative force in the squad, and is one of the top in the league in goal creating actions over the first two matches.
2023-2024 Women's Super League Goal-Creating Actions Leaders— ⚽ FBref ⚽ (@fbref) October 9, 2023
Niamh Charles (3)
Grace Clinton (3)
Samantha Tierney (2)
Marie-Therese Höbinger (2)
Katie Zelem (2)
Katie Robinson (2)https://t.co/DqR59jfqQR
Höbinger will deservedly get the plaudits for scoring the goal, but Ceri Holland and Fuka Nagano were also quite impressive on the day. Nagano vacuumed up 17 recoveries while Holland notched 12 as the two players ensured Liverpool maintained or regained control of the ball.
It’s not hard to find Clark on the pitch, being as she is typically the tallest player out there. Her play was also immense on Sunday, with the young Scot won all 3 tackles she put in, and had 7 clearances as well. She was Jenna-on-the-spot to quickly recover and poke the ball away from Ebony Salmon after Rachael Laws played the ball directly to the Aston Villa attacker.
Clark was also calm and composed on the ball, completing over 82% of her passes. Playing as the right-sided center back in the back three for most of the match, she frequently found Emma Koivisto down the wing to circumvent the Aston Villa press and jump start the attack.
Last week manager Matt Beard said they needed to get Taylor Hinds higher up the pitch to help break the press and get the attack going. He got exactly that against Aston Villa, with Hinds creating two fantastic opportunities in the opening three minutes of the match. Hinds was a thread down the left all game long, completing 4 of 4 take-ons and led the team with 6 shot creating actions. She also made 5 tackles on the day, with 4 of those tackles in the middle third of the pitch.
On the right side, Emma Koivisto was a huge threat in the attack as she typically is. She was second on the team with 4 shot creating actions. She also saved a goal, heading a ball clear off the line.
Impact From the Bench
Liverpool got a massive boost with Melissa Lawley being fit enough for a place on the bench after a long injury layoff, and come on the pitch in the 71st minute. Natasha Flint, who has been dealing with an illness, also came off the bench shortly thereafter. The two combined to ice the game as Lawley drove down the left side of the pitch before squaring the ball to Flint in the center of the box. There was still plenty of work to do, and Flint froze her defender by dipping her shoulder to the right before letting the ball run across her and turn to the left to create space to get the shot off.
Rachael Laws with the ball at her feet
While the goalkeeper made same fantastic plays with her hands to keep Aston Villa out of the goal, she struggled with the ball at her feet. She played several balls out of bounds, and came close to gifting a goal to substitute Ebony Salmon by passing a ball directly to an attacker. Beard obviously wants to play the ball out of the back, and asks his goalkeepers to be very involved in distributing the ball.
For the second match in a row, Liverpool played more than 10 minutes of extra time. Sure, there were a few stoppages for injuries in the second half, but the amount of extra time seemed disproportionate to what happened on the pitch.
From The Manager
“I’m a bit concerned about the amount of time that’s being added on. We’ve played two games now and played nearly 115 minutes. It needs to be looked at.”
What Happens Next
Liverpool are surprisingly joint top of the table with an also surprising Leicester City. The Reds will look to keep the momentum going with a massive clash against local rivals Everton next Sunday. The match will be played at Anfield, and should have a large crowd on hand.