Liverpool had a chance to move past West Ham in the table with a win, but the Reds had to settle for a point on the road despite having the better of the chances. Despite failing to break through, it was heartening to see Liverpool go on the road and take the game to the hosts, even in the early going.
Below, we take a look at some winners and losers on the night, and attempt to disentangle narrative from fact.
In the first half (plus) of the season, Liverpool have often looked tentative and nervous in the early portions of matches, often sitting deep and letting the game come to them. As we’ve seen in the last several weeks, Liverpool looked much more comfortable in their own skin early in the match against West Ham. The Reds were aggressive on and off the ball, showing much more energy in the press and in winning second balls. That translated into early sustained possession and several good chances in the first 15 minutes, setting the tone for the match. Liverpool ultimately couldn’t break through, but the tenor of the match was so much different from earlier in the season when it felt like the Reds were just trying to survive to make it to the second half.
Liverpool looked much more assured on the defensive side of the ball against the Hammers. The middle three of Gemma Bonner, Leighanne Robe, and Megan Campbell did a nice job of making sure there were always two of the three to bracket Viviane Asseyi, with one player always ready to drop deeper to help handle to speed of the Frenchwoman. Gemma Bonner also did well to track and challenge headers with Dagný Brynjarsdóttir. In the end, Liverpool limited West Ham to just a couple of decently dangerous chances.
The American striker is obviously Liverpool’s biggest goal threat this season, leading the team with 7 on the year so far. Despite not finding the net against West Ham, Stengel was fantastic with her hold up play, allowing the midfielders and wing backs to get forward into the attack. More than just a big body, Stengel time and time again showed some nifty footwork against the Hammers, turning defenders to create space for herself to play passes to players making runs past her.
The right wing back was yet again a key piece in Liverpool’s attack. She came within a whisker of opening the scoring after spotting the keeper cheating off her line. Koivisto’s shot from distance had to be tipped over for a corner, which led to several quick chances, including Missy Bo Kearns hitting the crossbar. Koivisto also was a workhorse with her runs down the right wing, and she put some excellent deliveries into the box.
Yana Daniels’ Finishing
This is harsh on Daniels, who isn’t a forward by trade, but is being played alongside Katie Stengel due to injuries to pretty much every other attacking player. She has shown a knack for finding a pocket of space in the box to get on the end of balls in dangerous areas, but she has really struggled with finishing. Against West Ham, she had the chance of the game for the Reds, getting a ball just a few yards from goal with the goalkeeper scrambling to get across, but Daniels blasted the ball on the wrong side of the post.
This may seem counterintuitive considering Liverpool have picked up 5 points over their last 3 matches, including road draws with Everton and West Ham that easily could have ended in wins for the Reds. Unfortunately for Liverpool, yet another international break is looming, with a three week layoff until the Reds play their next competitive match. It’s really hard to build momentum and keep it going in the WSL with all of the lengthy layoff built in.
An interesting wrinkle that has been popping up more and more is Taylor Hinds pushing inside as an extra midfielder when Liverpool are in possession, allowing Megan Campbell to push forward down the left wing. Hinds moving inside is adding an extra body to collect second balls and half clearances to allow Liverpool to maintain possession for longer stretches and keep the offensive pressure on. It also allows the likes of Missy Bo Kearns and Ceri Holland to push into the box knowing they have support in the space they are vacating.
What Happens Next
Wouldn’t you know it, but there is ANOTHER international break for the women. Liverpool will not have another competitive match until they host Brighton on April 23, a solid 3 weeks from now. Matt Beard has said he will be looking to schedule a friendly or two during the interim to try and keep the players sharp. It will be an important stretch of matches right out of the gate for Liverpool when they return, taking on the bottom two sides in the table back to back.