Coming off the back of another long international break, Liverpool FC Women’s manager felt his side needed one more win to feel truly safe from relegation. Facing a Brighton & Hove Albion team on its third manager as they fight to avoid the drop, Beard knew this was an opportunity to cement the team’s spot.
What transpired was an end-to-end first half that saw both sides struggle to create clean cut chances. Brighton struck near the end of the first half on a lob from distance after goalkeeper Rachael Laws was caught off of her line. As we’ve seen time and time before this season, the Reds came out and was the better team in the second half, knocking in two goals to take the win. After the match, Beard felt his side truly deserved all three points on the balance of play.
Yeah, I felt we needed one more win just to be in a really good position, especially with the way the results have gone over the past few weeks. Credit to the players, the second-half performance was fantastic - I think we deserved the win in the end.
Beard said the squad made some adjustments at halftime to be more brave playing the ball through the press. Brighton was marking midfield maestro Fuka Nagano, so the manager wanted her to move into different areas to receive the ball, or potentially pull Brighton out of shape for others to exploit.
We were disappointed, we played round the press when we could’ve played through it, the full-backs and center-backs get drawn in and there was a lot of space for us to put the ball in the wide areas and then get in the box, because they’re quite vulnerable from crosses. We showed them a couple of clips at half-time where we could’ve got it into Fuka and got it into the No.10. We come out and done that. We also said to Fuka about dropping into the half-space, or dropping into the line, because she was being marked throughout the game to try to stop her getting on the ball. When we found her, Fuka finds those passes, so we just wanted to be a bit braver playing through it. The spaces were there, we showed them, and credit to the players for going out and implementing that.
While there were several strong performances across the pitch, Ceri Holland was definitely the standout. The Welsh midfielder scored both of Liverpool’s goals, and was also making lung-busting recovery runs in extra time to thwart Brighton’s attack. For Beard, the showing from Holland came as no surprise based on her play throughout the season.
All season she’s been fantastic. She had a lot of information last year at international level and club level and I think everything has just fell into place for her this year. Two goals today; her work ethic, strength, pace and power... she has been fantastic for us.
Beard also called out the contributions of Shanice van de Sanden. The Dutch winger wasn’t originally expected to start as she continues to work her way from a long injury layoff. Unfortunately, a late injury to Yana Daniels forced Liverpool’s hand, and van de Sanden was electric down the right wing. Her speed created problems for Brighton all match long, and she assisted Holland on Liverpool’s opening goal.
It’s been tough up there [in attack]. I said to the players after the game, tactically they have been challenged so much this year because we have had to adjust to personnel we’ve had. It’s just great to have Shanice back on the pitch. She wasn’t due to start today, we lost Yana Daniels on Friday, but I think she’s given a great account of herself today... she’s so infectious to everyone on that pitch. It does create space and gaps for us so we’re delighted we’ve got her back fit.
Matt Beard and Liverpool will now turn their attention to Leicester City on Saturday. A win against the Foxes would all but mathematically ensure Liverpool safety from relegation before a run of four difficult games to finish out the season.