LIVERPOOL Ladies picked up their third straight win in the Continental Cup last night with substitute Natasha Dowie scoring a second-half winner, her fourth goal in the competition this season.
Defensively the Reds were unchanged from last weekend’s 2-2 draw away at Sunderland with Mayumi Pacheco, Becky Easton, Gemma Bonner and Martha Harris lining up from left to right in front of Libby Stout in goal. Lucy Staniforth and Katrin Omarsdottir also remained in midfield, joined by Katie Zelem, while Kate Longhurst, Line Smorsgard and Ashley Hodson formed the front three.
Throughout the first half Liverpool dominated the possession yet found it tough breaking Durham down, with the visitors placing nine players behind the ball with forward Amelia Pereira 20 yards or so ahead of them.
Liverpool had a number of corners in quick succession in the opening stages of the first half, Staniforth’s delivery good on each occasion. Longhurst got her head to one but was unable to direct her header goalwards while Staniforth also had a free kick blocked by the wall and saw a audacious long-range effort from 40-yards dip just a couple of seconds too late to go narrowly over the crossbar.
Ashley Hodson worked tirelessly up front, winning the first two corners and then latching onto a long ball over the top, beating her marker with an impressive burst of speed only for her final strike to fly inches wide.
The Reds were passing the ball well, with Durham seemingly comfortable to allow Liverpool to keep the ball, standing off and rarely pressing. Longhurst had a shot parried by Helen Alderson in the Durham goal after Zelem had neatly clipped the ball to Hodson to cross.
And Longhurst was denied by Alderson again moments later when Hodson combined with Harris to send the ball in from the right, Longhurst controlling and turning under pressure to get her shot in on target however an opening goal continued to elude Liverpool.
On the rare occasion Durham broke ranks, the Reds defence dealt with the attacks with ease, Easton matching Nicki Gears run and eventually seeing the ball out for a goal kick. A free kick was also well defended by Liverpool, with Bonner and Easton both blocking rebound attempts.
Before half-time Staniforth rattled the post with a fiercely struck free kick and Smorsgard shot wide after being set up by Pacheco.
Liverpool continued to pile on the pressure in the second half with Longhurst seeing her volley end up in the arms of Alderson and a stunning cross in from Hodson skimming several red shirts in the box. Pacheco also shot over the crossbar and Bonner had a low drive punched away.
With 35 minutes left to play, Liverpool boss Matt Beard made a double substitution with Rosie White and Natasha Dowie replacing Omarsdottir and Smorsgard. And the duo made an immediate impact.
Dowie has been in fine goalscoring form since the return from the summer break and looked hungry for more here. Her first touch was a nicely struck hit from the edge of the box that was deflected out for a corner. Then the No.9 chased down Zelem’s through ball — her shot blocked before Alderson then produced a good save at close range from Dowie after she had been put through by White.
It seemed only a matter of time before the striker would get on the score sheet and 10 minutes after entering the fray Dowie converted Hodson’s cross to put Liverpool ahead then almost scored a second immediately from the restart.
Even after the goal, Liverpool still could have had more — White hitting the crossbar and Bonner shooting wide in the final minutes.
Satara Murray also made a welcome return from injury during the second half replacing Longhurst who picked up an injury during a brief flurry of activity in the Liverpool box.
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Stout, Harris, Bonner, Easton, Pacheco, Omarsdottir (White), Staniforth, Zelem, Smorsgard (Dowie), Longhurst (Murray), Hodson
Player of the match: Ashley Hodson