Liverpool 2 - 0 Aston Villa
Liverpool: Höbinger 21’, Flint 77
After an impressive win over Arsenal in the first match of the season, the Liverpool FC Women return to Prenton Park for their home opener against Aston Villa. The Villains lost to Manchester United in their opening match of the season.
Matt Beard is still short handed at the top of the pitch with new signing Sophie Roman-Haug still unavailable after breaking her nose during the international break. Yana Daniels has returned after illness, and goes straight into the lineup for goalscorer Miri Taylor. That’s the only change for the starting line up, but Melissa Lawley is back on the bench after a return from a hip injury that required surgery last season. Jasmine Matthews also returns to the bench after an illness.
Liverpool open the match with a good opportunity in just the second minute. Taylor Hinds receives the ball back after taking a throw in high up on the left wing. She skins her defender and sends a left-footed cross in to Missy Bo Kearns. The Scouse midfielder directs the ball towards goal but it goes just to the outside of the far post.
Moments later Taylor Hinds again sends in a sumptuous delivery from the left, cutting a ball back across the face of goal. It goes all the way through to Emma Koivisto on the right side of the box, but her shot is deflected just past the far post and out for a corner.
Liverpool looking quite confident moving the ball around, and string together quick pass after quick pass, starting from their own end and finishing with Marie Höbinger earning a corner kick. Liverpool keep the pressure on after the initial corner and force Aston Villa to put it behind again. The second ball in eventually finds Missy Bo Kearns, but her cross in to Yana Daniels has a little too much pace on it and goes out for a goal kick.
Aston Villa look to find their main goal threat, Rachel Daily, in the 16th minute. A deep cross finds Daly’s head, but the striker can only guide the ball wide of the net.
Liverpool again with some quick interplay to get the ball from defense to attack. It is played wide left to Yana Daniels, who spies the run of Missy Bo Kearns through the middle. Daniels lofts the ball in for Kearns, but it’s just too long and the goalkeeper is able to collect a whisker ahead of the Scouser.
GOAL LIVERPOOL!!!! Marie Höbinger opens her account with a wonderful strike from the center of the box. Taylor Hinds does well to play it out to Ceri Holland on the left, and the midfielder cuts it back and sends a cross in. It’s headed to the top of the box where Höbinger is lurking. She shifts it onto her left foot and unleashes a rocket to the far corner to give the Reds a very deserved lead in the 21st minute!
Aston Villa look to get on the score sheet shortly after conceding. They earn a corner kick on the right, and the ball is not cleared well. A shot bounces off of a couple of players and then trickles towards the far post where Rachael Laws is able to get down and hold.
Liverpool immediately get back on the attack, again moving the ball through Taylor Hinds on the left. She slides it in to Missy Bo Kearns, who in turn shows some quick feet to find Emma Koivisto, but the ball in is cut out.
Liverpool are peppering the Aston Villa goal. It’s Yana Daniels now how stings the palms of Daphne van Domselaar in net after being set up by Emma Koivisto. The Villa keeper is just able to push the ball wide of the net.
Taylor Hinds is having her way right now. She picks the pocket of an Aston Villa attacker, with the ball getting poked to Missy Bo Kearns. Kearns immediately plays it back to Hinds who carries the ball to the end line. She crosses her defender up with a cut back and advances into the box, but she goes for goal instead of crossing it and her shot goes harmlessly into the side netting.
HUGE clearance off the line by Emma Koivisto. Aston Villa get the ball down their right wing and into the box. The ball is cut back to an unmarked Jordan Nobbs, who’s goalbound shot is headed off the line by Emma Koivisto.
Aston Villa get another good look from the resulting corner kick. The ball falls to Alisha Lehmann in the box, but Rachael Laws is able to get across goal and get down to make the save. She importantly holds the ball with Adrianna Leon lurking to tuck in any sort of rebound.
Aston Villa again get the ball into the box from a good delivery from Adriana Leon. Liverpool have multiple defenders in the box to deal with the trouble, but Emma Koivisto has the ball hit her in the face and she stays down after the Reds clear the ball. Play is stopped for her to receive treatment. Thankfully she is able to continue.
Yana Daniels is the first player to go into the book as the clock hits the 45 minute mark. She comes in late on Rachel Daly and is shown a yellow card.
Aston Villa have had almost all the pressure through the last 15 minutes of the half. Marie Höbinger turns the ball over just outside of Liverpool’s own box, and the ball is worked wide left to Alisha Lehmann. Rachael Laws again gets down low to block the shot out.
That’s the last significant action as Liverpool take their 1-0 lead into half time. The Reds were sensational for the first 30 minutes, and were unlucky not to be up by more than a goal. They faded a but as the half wore on, and Aston Villa got some good looks on goal that the Reds were just barely able to keep out.
Aston Villa bring on Ebony Salmon for Alisha Lehmann to start the second half. Matt Beard elects not to make any changes as the second stanza kicks off.
Yikes. Rachael Laws absolutely gifts a chance to Salmon just 20 second into the half. The Liverpool goalkeeper does just enough to get in front and slow her down and Jenna Clark recovers and nicks the ball away before a shot can be made.
Marie Höbinger plays a fantastic chipped ball over the top for Missy Bo Kearns to run onto at the top of the box. The flag goes up and the play is whistled dead for offside. The replay shows the Kearns was onside. Sigh.
Liverpool again break quickly up the pitch. Missy Bo Kearns sprays the ball wide right to Emma Koivisto, and the Finnish wing back advances towards the box. She hits a low fizzing ball that could either be a shot or a cross, but it goes wide of the post and no Liverpool player made the run to meet it.
Matt Beard goes to the bench in the 52nd minute. Natasha Flint enters for Yana Daniels to join Missy Bo Kearns in the attack.
Liverpool move the ball well in the attacking half with Fuka Nagano finding Emma Koivisto on the right wing. Koivisto cuts the ball inside for Ceri Holland at the top of the box, but the resulting shot is right at the goalkeeper.
Two big injury worries for both siders within a couple of minutes of one another. Rachel Daly had to come off for Aston Villa after she was hobbled from a challenge with Gemma Bonnner. On the restart, Emma Koivisto got her legs tangled with Natasha Flint as they both were tracking the free kick into the box, and the Finn needs treatment on her ankle. Both Daly and Koivisto are able to continue after treatment.
Neither side has been able to establish much flow through the opening 20 minutes of the second half. There have been some chances, but the match has mainly been bogged down as each team tries to progress the ball through midfield and turns the ball over or is fouled.
Taylor Hinds becomes the second player to go in the book. She is shown a yellow card for taking too long over a free kick in the 65th minute.
Emma Koivisto makes a smart step up to win a ball and immediately play it to Missy Bo Kearns making the run from a central area out right. Koivisto continues her run and heads towards the left with Marie Höbinger running through the middle, but Kearns puts a strike on net from distance that doesn’t really trouble the goalkeeper. Kearns also may have been trying to cross it, but didn’t really get much curve on the ball.
Big round of applause as Melissa Lawley makes her long-awaited return. She steps on for Missy Bo Kearns. Jasmine Matthews also makes her season debut, coming on for captain Taylor Hinds. Ceri Holland takes the arm band.
GOAL LIVERPOOL!!!! The Reds break on the counter, starting with Melissa Lawley driving forward down the left wing while being pressured by a defender. She gets a step and plays a square ball into the box to Natasha Flint, who receives the ball and turns away from a defender before unleashing a low shot to beat the goalkeeper. 2-0 to the Reds in the 76th minute.
Matt Beard goes to his bench one more time as the match enters the last 10 minutes of regulation. Miri Taylor comes on for Marie Höbinger, and Mia Enderby enters for Emma Koivisto. It looks like a back four now of Clark, Bonner, Fisk, and Matthews.
Jenna Clark struggles to deal with a bouncing ball as she runs towards her own goal and Rachael Laws has to get down and takes a shot to the chest. The ball is cleared out for a corner kick and Laws goes down for treatment. Let’s call it VETERAN GAMESMANSHIP from the Liverpool goalkeeper.
There will be ten minutes of extra time added on. Ugh.
Melissa Lawley is shown a yellow card for bringing an Aston Villa player down to slow down a potential break. Shortly after, Fuka Nagano is whistled for a foul just outside the left corner of the Liverpool box. Liverpool pack into the box and handle the situation thankfully.
Ceri Holland goes down after her foot slides out from under her while chasing a player. She looks to have wrenched her back and needs a few minutes of treatment. She’s able to reenter the pitch a minute after play resumes.
Liverpool hold on and see out the final few minutes of extra time. The referee’s whistle blows and the Reds finish with a 2-0 win!
It’s still very early days, but Liverpool are looking like a team that can play with anybody this season. It’s not always perfect, but Matt Beard’s side showed slick and aggressive passing against Aston Villa, and were well on top when they took the lead. Aston Villa did well to work their way back into the match and create a couple of very good chances, but the Liverpool defenders were up to the task to keep the clean sheet.
With the win, Liverpool have now won their opening two fixtures to start the season against two teams that finished ahead of them last year. The Reds sit atop the table with another surprise squad in Leicester City as the only two perfect squads thus far.
The Reds will be back in action against the Foxes in the opening round of the FA WSL Cup on Wednesday. Liverpool will be back for WSL play on Sunday as they host Everton at Anfield.