The Liverpool FC Women (finally) return to action after yet another long layoff for an international break. The Reds enter the match with Brighton on a 3 match unbeaten streak, having defeated Spurs before drawing with Everton and West Ham before the break. Liverpool sit 4 points ahead of the visitors in 8th place in the table with 16 points.
Brighton, on the other hand, are in the midst of a serious relegation battle. They sit just two points ahead of Leicester City in the drop spot, albeit with a game in hand. The Seagulls got a win over Everton their last time out under new manager Melissa Phillips.
Matt Beard is yet again having to deal with a rash of injuries. Yana Daniels and Gemma Bonner were ruled out before matchday, and Megan Campbell pulled up with an injury during warmups.
Natasha Dowie gets a start up top alongside Katie Stengel and Shanice van de Sanden. This is the most firepower along the front line that Beard has had at his disposal in a long time. Melissa Lawley is also finally fit enough for a place on the bench.
Liverpool get into the attack right off the opening whistle through Shanice van de Sanden. The Dutch winger uses her electric pace to beat a defender down the right wing and put a dangerous ball into the box, but it is cut out before it can find one of the several Liverpool players in the box.
The Reds earn a corner in the 2nd minute, again through van de Sanden down the right wing. Missy Bo Kearns plays it short to Taylor Hinds in a set play, and Hinds sends a ball low for the run of Ceri Holland at the top of the box. The ball doesn’t have enough pace on it and is cut out by Lee Geum-min and the Brighton player is free to counter. Liverpool get numbers back to defend and quell the threat.
Shanice van de Sanden is causing all sorts of problems early on here. Great to see her getting on the ball frequently early for the Reds. She also is working hard to track back, showing no problem with helping out on the defensive side.
Taylor Hinds tries to play the ball past Katie Robinson deep in Liverpool’s half, but the ball is blocked off by the Brighton attacker. Hinds just manages to get back and tackle the ball out for a corner kick. Brighton get two bites at it as the first corner is turned behind for another. The second corner is dangerous, and only half cleared. Brighton get a shot off from the edge of the box, but Rachael Laws is able to comfortably catch it.
Liverpool immediately attack back down the other end. The ball is played into the feet of Natasha Dowie with her back to goal. She turns well and gets a low shot off, but its straight at the keeper.
Katie Stengel, who has been shifted out to the left side of a 4-3-3, carries the ball while under pressure for a good 60 yards down the pitch. She gets to the end line and hits the ball off of a defender for a corner. Missy Bo Kearns sends the ball in and Liverpool get a head to the ball, but can’t direct it on goal. Ceri Holland recovers the ball on the right side and beats the first defender, but her cross is cut out.
Leighanne Robe has come up with some big blocks and tackles early in this match Shanice van de Sanden tries to dummy a ball in her own half in the 15th minute, but the defender is not fooled and nicks the ball before sending it to an attacker in the box. Robe quickly comes across to block the ball out for a corner that Rachael Laws punches away.
Taylor Hinds is taken down on the ball with a clear foul, but the referee decides to let play continue as Brighton attack. Jasmine Matthews blocks the ball out for yet another Brighton corner kick. The Seagulls definitely having the more dangerous of possession through the early portions of this match.
The referee seems very happy to let the players hack each other down. She does acknowledge that Missy Bo Kearns was wrestled down from behind, with the ball going backwards to a Liverpool player under pressure and the referee waves for advantage rather than give a foul. Sigh.
Tash Dowie slides out to the right side to receive an outlet ball deep in the attacking half. She cuts inside with the ball on her left foot past a defender and gets a low shot off from just outside the box, but again it is right at Lydia Williams in net.
Katie Stengel is starting to get on the ball more, showing off her nifty footwork. She receives the ball at the top of the box to the left of the D, and makes several quick cuts with the ball to fashion space to get a shot off. It is again right at the goalkeeper, but Liverpool seem to be finding the spots to shoot at least.
The referee, who has been very happy to let some very physical play go on, whistles Dowie for a foul with very little contact. The Liverpool faithful send a chorus of boos in the referees direction.
The match has really opened up with end to end play. Shanice van de Sanden again uses her pace down the right flank to open things up for Liverpool, with a blocked cross floating back for Missy Bo Kearns to try a speculative outside-of-the-boot effort from distance that goes out for a goal kick. Brighton immediately take the ball down to the Liverpool end as the match goes on at a frenetic pace.
Ceri Holland is absolutely FLATTNED and the referee just stares at her as Brighton break forward. Brighton defender Jorja Fox is then is hit in the nose when challenging for a ball and play is stopped for close to 5 minutes as they try to staunch her bloody nose.
Fuka Nagano ears a free kick in a central area about 15 yards outside the box. Missy Bo Kearns clips a delightful ball over the top of the defense for the run of Leighanne Robe, but the defender absolutely whiffs on her first time shot with only the keeper to beat.
Brighton immediately come forward with the ball after the Liverpool missed opportunity. Elizabeth Turland has the ball well outside the box in transition and sees Rachael Laws well off her line. The Norwegian striker lofts the ball over the Liverpool goalkeeper to give the Seagulls a 1-0 lead. Very disappointing sequence from the Reds.
The referee has gone from calling nothing to calling every little bit of contact. The players are all looking very confused as several fouls are whistles in quick succession with very little in it.
Liverpool push for an equalizer during the 5 minutes of time added on at the end of the first half. Missy Bo Kearns does well to win the ball high up the pitch before getting a shot off, but it is blocked by a defender. Shanice van de Sanden again gets the the end line a minute later to send in yet another dangerous cross, but none of the Liverpool players in the box can get on the end of it. Brighton counters and Leighanne Robe blocks the ball out for a corner, but the referee blows for halftime with the Reds down 1-0.
Liverpool have been primarily a second half team this season, and will need to turn it up again if they are to get points out of this match. Matt Beard’s side have been decent through the first half, but have failed to have any real cutting edge to the attack despite having more shots and shots on target.
No changes for either side as the match gets back underway. After a couple of minutes where both teams turn the ball over to each other in midfield, Missy Bo Kearns does well to win a ball and send it into the path of Katie Stengel down the left. The American dances past a defender into the box, but her shot balloons over the net.
Brighton immediately counter, with Lee Geum-min getting on the ball in the center of the box. She gets a weak shot off that Rachael Laws gratefully gobbles up.
Fuka Nagano plays a brilliant ball out to the left flank for Taylor Hinds. The Liverpool left back sends a fantastic cross in that finds Shanice van de Sanden on the right side of the box. The Dutchwoman brings the ball down but just can’t sort her feet before the strike and sends it high and wide of the net from a good angle.
Katie Stengel turns the ball over in her own half with a poor pass. Katie Robinson takes the ball down the right flank and plays a ball in to Elizabeth Terland. The Norwegian rifles a shot towards the near post, but Rachael Laws flies across to push the ball around the post for a corner.
GOAL TO LIVERPOOL! It’s a fantastic team move, starting with Emma Koivisto carrying the ball down the right flank. She plays a ball down the sideline for Shanice van de Sanden, who again beats a defender with pace to get to the end line. She cuts the ball back into the path of Ceri Holland who just clips it over the goalkeeper and into the corner of the net!
Missy Bo Kearns immediately wins the ball back off of the kickoff and carries the ball towards the box. She gets a shot away, but the goalkeeper just gets a finger to it and the ball rolls past the wrong side of the post for a corner kick.
The referee is again happy to watch Ceri Holland get clearly fouled with no whistle, and the call a foul on the Welsh midfielder for an absolutely clean tackle. Brighton bring off Lee Geum-min, Elizabeth Terland, and Veatriki Carter before the free kick is taken from near midfield. Dejana Stefanovic, Danielle Carter, and Kayliegh Green come on for the Seagulls for the triple change.
Emma Koivisto battles her way down the right wing before eventually being brought down for a foul. Missy Bo Kearns takes the free kick quickly to again spring van de Sanden down the right wing, and her cross is just flicked clear by a defender before Katie Stengel can volley the ball towards the goal.
That’s the last action for Shanice van de Sanden as she comes off for Razza Roberts. Liverpool are shifting to a 3-5-2 with the introduction of the defender. That should allow Katie Stengel to get on the ball in more central areas.
Emma Koivisto is fouled 3 or 4 times while on the ball on the right flank, and the referee finally blows the whistle for a free kick. Missy Bo Kearns sends the ball into the box from deep, but Lydia Williams comes out to claim it. She sends the ball forward to Danielle Carter on the counter, but Koivisto races back to tackle the ball away.
Rachael Laws goes down for her regularly scheduled in-match treatment. She’s back on her feet after getting a quick wrap of tape under her knee. Laws is immediately called into action while under pressure on a corner kick and is up to the task.
IT’S A BRACE FOR CERI HOLLAND!!! It all starts with Jasmine Matthews winning the ball near midfield and playing a fantastic ball up towards Missy Bo Kearns for a quick counter. The Scouser tries to get to the ball, forcing the defender into a touch on the ball that rolls into the path Ceri Holland on her left. The midfielder races to the ball and tucks it home from a tight angle to give Liverpool a 2-1 lead!
Matt Beard makes a second change after the goal. Melissa Lawley makes her return from injury, coming on in place of Natasha Dowie.
Melissa Lawley makes her presence known with a hard tackle that results in being shown a yellow card. Lawley gets on the ball in the attack down the right wing a minute later, playing the ball into the path of Ceri Holland. A Brighton defenders slides in to touch the ball behind for a corner before the Welsh midfielder can attempt a shot to complete her hat trick.
Missy Bo Kearns sends a great ball in from the corner kick, and Lydia Williams just gets a touch to the ball to keep it from the head of Katie Stengel. Ceri Holland recovers the ball, but loses it under pressure at the end line. Brighton come back the other way and get an attempt off, but it goes just over the bar for a Liverpool goal kick.
Liverpool are now starting to take control of the match, winning almost every second ball and calmly moving it around. As the clock ticks over the 83 minutes, Sofie Lundgaard comes on for Missy Bo Kearns.
Katie Stengel with some fantastic play to retain possession late in the match. She twists and turns away from several defenders before playing the ball to Melissa Lawley. The attacker pushes the ball past a defender and sends a cross that finds the head of Ceri Holland. The midfielder puts the ball back across the face of goal, and Katie Stengel again recovers the ball to keep possession. It’s recycled around to the right where Emma Koivisto is fouled.
Koivisto plays the ball short to Ceri Holland, who carries it into the corner to take some time off the clock. She loses it out for a Brighton throw, but Koivisto is there again to win the ball before again getting fouled. The fourth official put the board up showing 6 minutes of added time.
Liverpool pin Brighton into their own half on the left side for the first two minutes of extra time before the ball comes around to the right. Koivisto is AGAIN fouled, with Kayleigh Green being shown a yellow for they cynical foul.
Brighton finally break out of their own half, getting the ball deep down their attacking right flank. Ceri Holland comes flying back to tackle the ball away. What an effort late in the game.
AND THEN SHE DOES IT AGAIN. A moment later, Holland shows up on the opposite side of the pitch to win the ball and play it to Katie Stengel to relieve the pressure.
Taylor Hinds with some non-nonsense defending late into extra time. Three times in quick succession she thumps the ball out of play while under pressure in her own half.
Brighton get one last attempt as the clock is now at 97 minutes. They earn a corner kick and send the ball into the box. Someone manages to get a shot off, but Rachael Laws catches and holds for the final play of the game!
It was end to end through much of the first half, but Brighton stole the lead with a cheeky lob from distance in transition. Liverpool took control of the match in the second half, with a Ceri Holland brace proving to be enough to take all 3 points. With the win, Liverpool move past West Ham into 7th place!