Sigh. I was actually excited to be able to watch a Liverpool match today. The Liverpool FC Women came into the match on the back of a strong 2-0 win over Reading last week, and had a chance to all but assure themselves safety with a win against last place Leicester City. Instead, the Reds were hamstrung yet again by a slow start and defensive errors leading to an early goal. On the other end of the pitch, Liverpool had set pieces galore, but could not find a way to get many shooting opportunities, and when they did they were denied by the goalkeeper and the woodwork.
Below, then, we dig into some of the winners, losers and narratives on the night.
The Wing Wizard was once again a spark for Liverpool. Lawley has been given a more free roll these past few weeks with the switch to a 3-5-2, and has used the opportunity to pop up all over the pitch. She consistently beat players on the dribble down the wing to lead Liverpool on dangerous counters, and put in more than a few good deliveries into the box. Due to her strong and tricky runs on the ball, Lawley also earned quite a few of Liverpool’s set piece opportunities in dangerous areas.
The Liverpool goalkeeper had to come up big on several occasions, a few times after mistakes from her defensive counterparts. Laws made a massive save shortly after Liverpool conceded, flying across goal to push away deflected shot that seemed destined for the top corner. Laws was put under pressure several times from poor back passes from her own teammates. She did well to keep her head and bail her teammates out with a couple of sliding challenges, as well as fancy footwork one time.
Since joining Liverpool, Nagano has quickly become one of the team’s most important players. She again showed off her composure on the ball, vision, and technical ability with flicks and passes against Leicester. She was a fantastic connector, setting the likes of Lawley and Kearns off on the counter on more than one occasion. She also seemed to pop up to gather up a loose ball or make an interception in the attacking half to help Liverpool retain and maintain possession.
Liverpool had a lot of set pieces today. According to FotMob, Liverpool had 48 throw ins on the day, with a high proportion of them being Megan Campbell long throws into the box. There were also 14 free kicks earned, with at least half in the attacking third, plus four corner kicks. Despite the large number of set pieces, the Reds struggled to get many shots from those opportunities. Instead, Leicester City packed bodies into the box and won first and second balls at a very high rate.
On the other end, Liverpool were undone by poor marking on the first set piece they saw. Leicester City used a set piece play to send a ball in on the ground, and Liverpool failed to track the run of Hannah Cain, who was able to turn and fire the ball into the net. Leicester City also threatened Liverpool several other times from set pieces, requiring Rachael Laws to make a couple of important saves to keep them in the match.
Another match, another player missing for Liverpool. This time it was Emma Koivisto, who was held out after straining her hamstring in training. She joins Niamh Fahey, Shanice van de Sanden, and Leanne Kiernan as regular starters out with injuries. Hopefully Fahey and Koivisto will be able to return after the international break.
Dissecting The Narrative
A win against Leicester City would have seen Liverpool go up to 14 points on the season, an amount higher than the last place team the last two years. It also would have kept Leicester City solidly at the bottom of the table. With the result reversed, Leicester City are now just five points behind the Reds. There are still three teams between Liverpool and Leicester City, but there is very little room for comfort at this point.
What Happens Next
After playing five times in the span of a month, the WSL will again go on a hiatus for an international break. Liverpool are next scheduled to play away to Arsenal on March 5, but that match will need to be rescheduled due to the Gunners playing Chelsea in the FA WSL Cup final on the same day. Liverpool’s next schedule match after that is at home to 9th place Spurs on March 12.