For the second time this season the Liverpool FC Women struggled against Bristol City, this time in the FA Women’s Cup. The Reds had a tough time generating much in the attack, and a second half sending off of Ceri Holland for her second yellow card made it all the more difficult. Despite the circumstances, Liverpool found a way through via a Gemma Bonner goal off of a Missy Bo Kearns corner kick. The goal proved to be just enough to advance to the next round.
After the match, Liverpool manager Matt Beard expressed his frustration with some sluggish play from his side. Despite not being at their best on the ball, Beard did feel like his side defended quite well.
Look, it was always going to be a tough game and a tough tie. I just felt, a bit like when we played them at home, we were just too slow with so many different things. We took our time to settle and get into the game. I thought we started the second half well and obviously the sending-off changes things. The players deserve credit, obviously, for winning the game after going down to 10.
Apart from set-plays, Bristol didn’t look like scoring and we didn’t look like scoring so we converted the one chance we had and obviously defended well, especially when we got in front.
Beard pushed back on the notion that the layoff from the winter break caused the rustiness that seemed prevalent on the day when asked. He did note that not having the services of Sophie Roman Haug, who was recently awarded the LFC Women’s Player of the Month for December.
It shouldn’t have, we’ve prepared the team well. We’ve had some good opportunity to work on some stuff tactically like we would do in pre-season. I think that’s my biggest frustration: forget positional play because I want the players to express themselves and I want them to be themselves on the pitch. Yes, we have a structure when we are building and playing but then once you break lines and stuff like that, players need the freedom to go and express themselves and I just don’t think we did that well enough in the first half. We were too negative.
We’ve used the two weeks, and we were in for a couple of sessions before that as well, I felt really well to really reinforce one or two things and it’s a lesson in making sure that we do get in the positions because we know we can hurt teams, especially with what we’ve got in the team. Obviously missing Sophie today was a miss but as I say, we need to do better with that.
Despite the offensive struggles throughout much of the match, as well as going down a player, Beard still felt there were chances to unlock their opponents on the counter. He highlighted the pace of Shanice van de Sanden and her ability to draw fouls as a big reason for his hope.
I think with Shanice’s pace we could definitely hit them on the counter. They were committing more bodies forward, which left them a little bit more open, and I think we had some good opportunities on the counter, even when we went in front, when we could have hurt them. But the most important thing is you get through the tie and you get into the hat for the next round and we’ve done that.
Beard felt his side did well with their set piece opportunities, including the corner kick that ended in a goal for Gemma Bonner. Beard made sure to call out the fantastic form his center back has been in this season.
Obviously it was a good delivery going in and I felt we could have scored on the one that Ceri got sent off on actually. But Gemma is having a good season and she deserves all the plaudits she’s getting.
In the end, it was all about progression in the cup. Beard highlighted the importance of the cup competition for keeping the full squad engaged and motivated.
We wanted to progress. Last year we played Chelsea, it was a tight game [but] we didn’t make it through. Obviously we’re in a good position in the league table and I know from my time at West Ham how this cup run keeps you motivated, keeps you going in the sense that you look at the final and going to Wembley and stuff like that. But it’s important that we got through today and we can just draw a line under it and move on.