The Liverpool FC Women had a deceptively difficult task against Brighton. The Reds were coming back after three weeks off due to an international break, trying to find their rhythm. Brighton, meanwhile, won a match midweek to claw themselves off the bottom of the table. It was an end to end match from the early going, but Liverpool struggled to convert opportunities in the first half. As we’ve seen throughout the course of the season, Matt Beard’s side stepped it up in the second half, putting away two goals to take the win.
Below, we take a look at some winners and losers on the night, and attempt to disentangle narrative from fact.
Wow, what a performance from the Welsh midfielder. She’ll of course be lauded for the two goals scored, and rightfully so, but it was her engine to make the runs that made both goals happen. Holland popped up all over the pitch to be an option on the attacking end, as well as to make tackle after tackle. Despite running hard all match, she was still going full tilt to make two crucial tackles in the 93rd and 94th minutes to help the Reds preserve the lead.
Shanice van de Sanden
The Dutch winger showed just how electric she can be against Brighton. She constantly roasted her defender for pace, and put a variety of dangerous crosses and cutbacks into the box. She finally got her assist, setting up Ceri Holland’s first goal.
The Finnish right back caused all sorts of problems for her old team. She combined well with van de Sanden, starting the move that led to Liverpool’s opening goal. Koivisto battled all match long, drawing foul after foul down the right wing late in the match.
The big task this season was to ensure Liverpool avoided relegation. I think we can say that the Reds are comfortably safe at this point, sitting 9 points ahead of Leicester City with 5 matches left to play. With the win against Brighton, Liverpool are now fairly solidly middle-table, moving past West Ham into 7th place.
Liverpool thankfully have a fairly deep squad compared to many of the WSL sides. Matt Beard has had to use the entire depth of the squad this season as player after player has gone down. Against Brighton, it was Yana Daniels and Gemma Bonner who were ruled out before match day, and Megan Campbell had to be withdrawn from the squad after taking a knock during warmups.
After rolling with a 3-5-2 over the last couple of months, Matt Beard started the match against Brighton in a 4-3-3. With the personnel available, that meant Katie Stengel was shunted out to the left to allow the less-mobile Tash Dowie to play centrally. While Stengel has deceptive speed, she was not able to influence the game nearly as much as she usually does through the middle. Dowie did a job, but she just isn’t at the same level as Stengel. It also meant Liverpool’s attack was much more lopsided towards the right side.
When Shanice van de Sanden was subbed out in the 63rd minute, Liverpool shifted back to a 3-5-2 that allowed Stengel to be much more involved. I do think when Liverpool will be much more effective in the 4-3-3 when both Melissa Lawley and Shanice van de Sanden are fit enough to flank Stengel.
What Happens Next
Liverpool will play their first and only Saturday match nest week, travelling to bottom side Leicester City. A win will mathematically cement the Reds into the WSL next season (assuming goal differential).