The Liverpool FC Women went on their last road trip of the season, traveling the two hours to Birmingham to take on an in-form Aston Villa. Yours truly was on hand to witness an exciting, back and forth affair that saw the Reds twice take the lead but fail to hold on.
Below, we take a look at some winners and losers on the night, and attempt to disentangle narrative from fact.
It’s been mentioned by Matt Beard and the squad how wonderful the away support has been all season. I had the opportunity to experience it first hand, traveling on the official LFCWSC coach with 49 other supporters. It was chock full of all of people from all generations. It was incredible to see the breadth of the support, as well as experience the welcome from everyone on the coach. They had songs for every player in the squad, including players who only just signed in January and have not had significant minutes to this point.
At the ground I was pleasantly surprised to see just how many other Liverpool supporters made the trek, with a sizeable (and loud) contingent among the over 7,500 people on hand to watch the match. The flags and banners were flying proudly to cheer on the Reds. It is an experience I will never forget.
Let me just say I have been a huge fan of Stengel all season. Seeing her play is even more impressive in seeing her tireless work rate and hold up play while isolated. She also skinned several defenders with cheeky flicks to run past them.
Of course, you can’t forget the goals. Stengel notched a brace of headers on the day to take her season total to nine goals. The first was a very scrappy header that came down to Katie just making sure to get in a dangerous spot to be on hand to nod in a miss-hit ball. The second was a thing of beauty after a sensational team move that saw Stengel with a perfect flick header from a rocketed cross from Shanice van de Sanden.
Hinds has had a quieter season on the attacking front this year, but she showed up in a big way on Sunday. She provided assists on Liverpool’s first two goals, and was popping up everywhere in the attack. She hit a rocket that went just over the bar from the edge of the box, and then she was kicked in the face while trying to head the ball in the Aston Villa box. It was a stone cold penalty, and should have been a red card, but the referee turned a blind eye.
245 days after sustaining a terrible ankle injury in the first match of the season, Leanne Kiernan made her second appearance of the season as a second half substitute. While she’s still knocking off the rust, her aggressiveness and willingness to make the runs on and off the ball were apparent. It was truly wonderful to see her back on the pitch!
Belief In Their Place
This is not the same Liverpool team as the beginning of the season. For the second week in a row, Liverpool came out aggressively against a team in good form and dominated the match for long stretches. This was a team that believed they are ready to challenge against the top half teams.
While Liverpool have had good traveling support this season, they squad have struggled to get positive results. After dropping the lead against Aston Villa to finish with a draw, Liverpool will now finish winless in away matches this season. The split is stark, with an away record of 0 wins, 5 draws, and losses. The Reds finished with 6 wins and 4 losses in the friendly confines of Prenton Park.
It’s been brought up by many managers throughout the WSL season, but the inconsistency of decisions is brutal. Not for the first time, Liverpool had a stone cold penalty dismissed when the referee declined to call a foul despite Taylor Hinds getting kicked directly in the face by a very high boot. Hinds was not ducking her head, and the defenders foot was over her shoulder level. Meanwhile, lots of fouls were called for minimal (or in some cases) no contact, much to the frustration of both sides while other physical play was ignored. The level of refereeing is definitely something that needs to be addressed.
From The (Assistant) Manager
“It was a great game for the neutral, a great occasion playing at Villa Park but we come away a little bit disappointed not to have won it.”
-Amber Whiteley, LFCW Assistant Manager
What Happens Next
Liverpool have their last match of the season next weekend. They will look to play spoiler to a Manchester United side that will need a win — combined with a Chelsea loss — to win the WSL title. With Liverpool ensconced 7th in the table, Matt Beard could elect to put out some players wo have not seen the field as much this season.