I RECOGNISE a lot of you might not have seen this game. So this won’t be like the review things I’ve been doing. However, for the full nuts and bolts of “things that happened” you can read this on the official Liverpool site. Our friend Joel Richards was there covering it. He was very smartly turned out.
I wasn’t. I was sporting a drowned rat look having got drenched in Liverpool city centre before getting a train to Widnes and then walking the Widnesian mean streets for twenty minutes to get to the Select Security stadium.
So this is Widnes.
And what have you done?
I’d mentally committed to watch Liverpool Ladies more often this season, that’s what I’d done. A fiver in, a season ticket for thirty quid and the only real hardship is having to go to Widnes to watch the games.
Liverpool are good. Really good. Last season’s league winners.
Matt Beard’s side…
…oh the teams. You’ll want to know the teams. Liverpool lined up first half with Stout in goal, Harris right back, Schroder left back, Bonner and Bronze at centre half with Omarsdottir and Williams in centre midfield. Davison, Da Costa and Longhurst interchanged behind Dowie in attack with Da Costa spending the most time in the middle of the three.
Matt Beard’s side… Oh. The City team. Er, OK then:
First half City had Worrall in goal, Houghton at centre half, Scott in centre mid and Duggan and Christiansen in attack. They had other players as well. Can’t be entirely sure where they played as, well, you watch your own side don’t you? Marsh and Holbrook were at the back along with Johnston I think. Hassett, Nightingale and Lipman were in midfield.
I’ll get better at this, promise. Not least when I get in the ground in a timely fashion and don’t get lost in Widnes.
I’m especially confused by Man City’s Johnston because she appeared to have a roving brief of “kick the living daylights out of Liverpool players” in the early going. There were four or five yellow card tackles lashed in but referee Fearn had been taking a leaf out of Howard Webb’s book and determinedly wasn’t getting a red card out this early in a season curtain raiser despite booking her after seven minutes.
Matt Beard’s side were exceptionally aggressive without the ball in the first thirty minutes. They put the Manchester City defence and midfield under all sorts of pressure, Fara Williams especially impressive in breaking out of a deeper midfield role to lead the press. She ran the first half and was the game’s outstanding performer with high energy off the ball and a poise on it Manchester City couldn’t match.
Three girls about twelve sitting next to me immediately noticing that the players “talk well more than we do when we play.” It was great to see so many girls and young women about the place – it’s important that young women have sporting example. It’s easy to be complacent about this sort of stuff, certainly if you are in possession of a penis. Too often the phrase role model is used to show a deficiency. X or Y shouldn’t think themselves a role model if they do this terrible thing. I was never short of sporting role models as a boy. They didn’t tell me how to live, they didn’t offer moral guidance. They were just elite sportsmen. And I liked watching them be elite sportsmen because it made me like sport. You name the sport, there was someone for me to look up to. Outside of athletics and tennis, I can’t remember any female sporting example on the telly from when I was about ten. I did think Liz McColgan was bloody brilliant though. Because she was. Just unlucky with the timing of Olympics.
After ten minutes Liverpool’s pressure told and Dowie forced a terrific save from Worrall. City were struggling to live with Davison’s pace primarily deployed on the left wing and their defenders – including England captain Houghton – were unable to show any composure whatsoever on the ball, concerned about the speed with which all Liverpool’s front four and Williams were able to close them down.
The game’s most controversial moment came when this hunting in packs led to Longhurst charging down Worrall’s attempted long clearance, it striking her and going into the back of the City net. The referee appeared to give the goal, Liverpool mobbed Longhurst only for the near side official, over fifty yards away to rule it out. Longhurst got herself booked, either for handball or for protesting the decision and the score remained 0-0. City hugely fortuitous.
When City could get on the ball the class of Scott and Duggan was clear. Scott spent much of the first half in a running battle with Williams and this elicited a free kick to Liverpool around 34 minutes in which then led to a series of corners but Liverpool couldn’t capitalise and finally before the break City were able to exert some influence in the Liverpool half. They made the game deliberately scrappy in the left back position before forcing Stout into an excellent save. The keeper came sixteen yards off her line to deal with a long ball into the box not long after, clearing out the ball, her teammate and a Manchester City player with all three left on the deck. This pleased me immeasurably and the Andy Heaton in my head was also very, very happy. Get. Told.
Immediately before half time Liverpool broke and Davison (I think) slipped Dowie through, she stretched and screwed the chance just wide.
Liverpool should have gone in ahead – their attacking pace looked far too much for City who had grabbed more of a hold of the game as the half wore on. I reflected this could be an opportunity missed for the Reds at half time despite the loudest PA in the world banging on about raffle tickets and Mighty Red coming on for its ritual sacrifice, the angry cormorant eating the entrails of Widnes’s virgins, gore splattered about its beak, sated for another fortnight (or to play penalties with children).
Davison and Dowie in particular had looked absolutely lightening in the first half and the latter’s hold up play was causing Manchester City real problems. This continued after the break when Dowie rolled two Manchester City defenders beautifully by the touchline. Three minutes later a long cross from Schroder found Davison in space and she killed it dead before forcing City into a goalline clearance. She should have scored. Schroder grew into the game and it was her excellent play from left back which again elicited a chance for the right back Harris to snatch at.
Manchester City though weren’t to be bullied out of the game. They pushed Scott on at the same time as Liverpool had pushed Williams on into more of a 4141 and used Scott’s height, strength but most of all touch as a beacon to get themselves up the pitch and then had Duggan and Christiansen running off and beyond her. Liverpool couldn’t cope with their midfield being bypassed and Scott spent fifteen minutes running the second half. City were very much on top, the Reds penned in and Williams who had been so effective first half couldn’t get into the game at all.
On 68 right back Harris, who was struggling with the switch in City’s play, was removed and on came Becky Easton who spent the remaining 25 minutes showing enormous, glorious, mind melding needle. I might get a poster. She immediately started to make life more difficult for City’s players
Liverpool cleared a ball behind City’s defence which had appeared overhit but Natasha Dowie leapt onto the opportunity. Worrall was flat footed as Dowie snaked on to it, her composure excellent, she finished beautifully into far side netting from an acute angle and Liverpool were ahead – against the run of play but on balance deserved.
Not long after Houghton carried the ball beautifully out of City’s defence after more ragged play from Liverpool, eased past three before threading a lovely ball to the far right flank. A City player struck it (no idea which was, was going to try and gloss over it but you’d have guessed) across Stout into the bottom corner but the linesman flagged for offside. Didn’t look it. At all.
I love a good let off.
Liverpool then killed the game. Easton continued to intelligently kick everything she could see – seriously, I might get a shirt – resulting in the bright Duggan going down injured. She returned to the field to bring a good save from Stout in what proved to be City’s last chance. Liverpool killed the game down their right side with Easton winning a series of throw ins before then stealing yards, wasting time and just generally being in the City players’s heads. The battling Omarsdottir screamed with joy when the final whistle went, rightly so – she had stinted her face off, being somewhat left alone in the second half when Liverpool became less effective and couldn’t cope with City and Scott’s approach.
1572 had been there to see Liverpool win their first game of the season. City’s fitness – their second half was significantly stronger than the Reds – and undoubted quality in attack mean that they will be force to be reckoned with this season as well. It was a good game of football.
I’ll get their earlier next time. I might even take a pad. I’ll definitely take a hip flask. You should come with me. I know the way. You turn *right* out of the station. You don’t need to bring a pad though.