The Liverpool FC Women put in a fantastic shift against Chelsea on Wednesday, but conceded a late goal to leave the potential of relegation a mathematical possibility. Facing yet another difficult task against second place Manchester City, the Reds not only stepped up to the challenge, but they outplayed the title hopefuls for stretches of the match, and honestly should have scored another goal or two on the balance of chances. In the end, Liverpool are now ensured another year in the WSL, and have also dealt Manchester City a massive blow in their hunt for the title.
Below, we take a look at some winners and losers on the night, and attempt to disentangle narrative from fact.
Manchester City, led by Bunny Shaw, have had one of the most prolific attacks in the WSL this season, averaging 2.6 goals a game. Liverpool back three did a fantastic job of defending as a unit, limiting the opportunities for shots from within the box. Gemma Bonner stayed tight to Bunny Shaw for much of the match, not allowing the Jamaican to easily turn with the ball at her feet. Jasmine Matthews and Razza Roberts were both quick to come over and help whenever Shaw got the ball, forcing passes rather than shots, or even winning tackles.
Wing backs Emma Koivisto and Taylor Hinds did well in more isolated roles on Manchester City’s talented wide players. Hinds in particular made some sensational 1v1 tackles around the edge of the box.
The veteran forward, brought back to Liverpool this winter, has been forced into a starting role these past few matches as Liverpool have dealt with a bevy of injuries. With her goal against Manchester City, Dowie became the first player to score 20 career WSL goals in a Liverpool shirt.
The first ever player to register 2️⃣0️⃣ @BarclaysWSL goals for the Reds ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Z7QOTgnLFD— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) May 7, 2023
Missy Bo Kearns
The Scouse midfielder has thrived playing as part of a midfield three, and had yet another strong match against Manchester City. MBK popped up all over the pitch to win the ball, and showed off her passing and dead ball prowess as well. She scored her fourth goal of the season, calmly controlling the ball in the box before slamming a low shot to the far post.
Pinpoint accuracy pic.twitter.com/0TBm5SYw5K— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) May 7, 2023
Too many times this season Liverpool have started the match in a timid manner. Against Manchester City, Liverpool showed no fear. Whether it was playing the ball out of the back while under pressure or launching quick attacks that were legitimately dangerous, the Reds played with poise and confidence. Shanice van de Sanden was a big part of that after she came in, making aggressive run after aggressive run KNOWING that her teammates would find her.
No, the Irishwoman didn’t see the field today, but just the fact that she is now fit enough to make the bench is a hug win. With two weeks before Liverpool’s next match, let’s hope she can see some minutes ahead of playing for Ireland in the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer.
Faye Kirby’s Passing
The 19 year old goalkeeper was given her second start in a row with Rachael Laws only fit for the bench. Kirby has shown herself to have great hands, but she created some very nervy moments with the ball at her feet. Twice during the match she hit low passes with no real pressure on her that went right do a Manchester City attacking player. She also took way too long on the ball with a player bearing down on her, and created a situation where she could have seen a penalty called against her. This is definitely an area for her to work on and grow.
Dissecting the Narrative
There were two questions coming into the match against Manchester City. The first, and most important, was whether Liverpool would be mathematically safe from relegation at the end of the day, or if they would have to sweat it out for a couple more weeks.
Liverpool’s win, coupled with Reading’s loss to Aston Villa, mean that the Reds have an 11 point gap from the bottom of the table with only two matches left to play for both teams. Liverpool are now assured to be in the WSL next season.
The second question coming into the match was whether Liverpool would have any say in the title race as they finish out with the top three teams in their last four matches. The Reds lost to Chelsea on a heartbreakingly late goal last Wednesday, keeping the Blues in the title hunt. Liverpool’s win today, however, effectively ends Manchester City’s chance at a title. They now sit 6 points behind Manchester United with both teams only have two matches left to play. Chelsea are 4 points behind Manchester United, but the Blues have 4 matches left to play over the next three weeks.
Liverpool will have one more chance to potentially impact the title race as they host Manchester United on the last day of the season.
What Happens Next
Liverpool will have next weekend off due to the FA Women’s Cup final. The Reds will be back in action the following weekend with a trip to Aston Villa on the books for the penultimate match of the season.