The Liverpool FC Women continued their preseason on Saturday with a friendly against WSL side Manchester City. The match was played behind closed doors, so not too much analysis can be had as the Reds ultimately dropped the match 1-0 after conceding in the 75th minute. Despite the result, LFCW manager Matt Beard felt it was an overall positive performance, especially on the defensive and pressing front.
Defensively, really pleased. The press I’m really pleased with as well – I thought we put them under a lot of pressure. I felt we should’ve done a little bit better on the turnover – we had three or four really good chances when we won the ball on the edge of their box. There were a lot of good things to come out of it. We brought in seven players in the summer, so we’ve still got players that are trying to understand the positional play and the positions they’re getting to on the pitch and being a little bit more patient with it. I felt we should have had a penalty, definitely, in the first half. We’ve looked at Natasha’s goal that was ruled out – she was onside. There’s plenty of positives. We still need to do work in the final third and I guess Sophie [Roman Haug] coming in will be a big part of that.
On a warm day in Manchester, Beard felt his side displayed great energy in the press, praising the fitness levels of the players. With seven players to integrate into the system, Beard feels there are still gains to be made as the squad settles in together.
The conditions were tough to play in today. Really pleased with the fitness levels. I think [the recent trip to] France has been a big help in pre-season. It’s interesting. We conceded a lot of the ball to Man City but we forced them into a lot of turnovers. It’s just making sure we get a little bit better on those turnovers and attack a little bit quicker. As I’ve said, we’ve got seven players that have come in, it’s going to take a little bit of time for that understanding to really gel. We need to see Fuka quicker because she gets in great positions and we don’t see it, and I felt in the second half we got her on the ball a little bit more. I think maybe a draw would’ve been a fair result but there are some really good learnings from it.
One of the new signings, goalkeeper Teagan Micah, got her first run out with the Reds in the second half after returning from the FIFA Women’s World Cup. While she didn’t see much action in net, Beard was happy with how she played the ball out of the back, which is an emphasis for this year.
I thought her distribution was good. Apart from that, she didn’t have much else to do. Apart from one save in the first half, they didn’t really create much today and I think that was down to our defensive play. We did speak at half-time about maybe being a little bit more higher and a bit more aggressive when we were in a deep block.
While the Liverpool manager was happy with the defensive side of things and how his team pressed, he did not there is still plenty of room for improvement in the attack. The squad was without the services of new signing Sophie Roman Haug, who just joined the team earlier in the week. Beard was also without the services of many of his attacking regulars who are currently finishing up a loan deal (Katie Stengel), or out injured or working on fitness (Leanne Kiernan, Melissa Lawley, Shanice van de Sanden).
As I say, it’s going to take a little bit of time to develop and we’ve got another goal threat in Sophie. Mel Lawley is not far away now, so she’ll be back in training in two weeks. And then we’ve got Jas [Matthews] to come back as well next week. There are a lot of things we can take from today, especially defensively. They opened us up once, which is going to happen in games, but I was really pleased with the defensive performance.
Liverpool will have two more opportunities to work out the kinks before the WSL season starts. The Reds will take on Manchester United on Wednesday before another closed door friendly with Leicester City on Sunday. Beard is hoping for better results, but more than anything wanting his side to continue to build their fitness and patterns of play.
We’ve got two more games – Wednesday and Sunday – and that’s our last opportunity to prepare for Arsenal. Defensively great today; we need to make sure we tweak the final third and make sure we’re a little bit more positive and do the things we need to do. Then hopefully in the next two games [we’ll] get some positive results. But it’s about the fitness levels, it’s about the performance and the understanding. I think if you look at our pre-season last year, we had a really good pre-season in winning the games and then we struggled when it came for points. I’m pleased with where we are, really pleased.