NATASHA DOWIE scored a goal in each half as Liverpool Ladies secured an important three points with a 2-0 victory over Bristol Academy in Widnes on Saturday night.
The double from the in-form no.9 leaves the Reds on 13 points in the Women’s Super League, sixth in the table and just seven points from the top.
Both Dowie and Rosie White returned to the starting 11 after their game-changing substitute appearances against Durham WFC last weekend. They were joined by Ashley Hodson and Kate Longhurst in attack, with Lucy Staniforth partnering Katie Zelem in midfield in front of an unchanged back four of Martha Harris, Gemma Bonner, Becky Easton and Mayumi Pacheco, with Libby Stout in goal.
A crowd of 492 supporters were in attendance to watch a cagey opening with early probes forward from Bristol stopped by Stout and an excellent block from Easton to deny Jade Boho-Sayo a shot on goal. Sophie Ingle also fired over for Bristol after Bonner had headed away a set piece.
At the other end, Staniforth had a free kick punched away from the bottom corner while White’s pass to Dowie in the final third was intercepted by Dutch defender Marje Brummel. Longhurst was also pulled back for offside after being sent through on goal by Zelem.
Dowie had scored five goals in five games before this match and she was once again on the score sheet midway through the first half. Hodson had made a well-timed run to pick up Staniforth’s looping ball over the top and the young forward saw her shot from a tight angle tipped away by Mary Earps but Dowie was on hand at the back post to tap the ball over the line to put Liverpool ahead.
Liverpool had the better of the chances to double their lead before half-time, at one stage penning Bristol in and around their 18-yard box but unable to find a telling final pass.
Dowie almost audaciously added a second in what surely would have been a contender for the goal of the season award, receiving the ball with her back to goal, flicking it in the air and turning to volley goalwards only for Earps to react quickly to save. Dowie also headed another chance over the crossbar and was once again denied by Earps when a low drive was tipped away for a corner.
Both sides made a change at half-time, with defender Satara Murray replacing Kate Longhurst as Easton moved into midfield. For Bristol, Tatiana Pinto replaced Hannah Short.
The Reds continued to carve out opportunities with Pacheco pressing further up the pitch and Hodson — the stand-out performer against Durham last week and impressing once again — continuing to send decent balls into the box.
Bristol had an opportunity to equalise after Murray was penalised for a foul near the corner flag. Angharad James stepped up to take the free kick but Murray blockd the effort while Harris also frustrated Bristol with a goal-line clearance later in the half.
Liverpool were determined to increase their lead and the second goal eventually arrived, a near match for the goal scored against Durham as Hodson’s cross in from the right was converted by Dowie for her seventh goal since returning from the mid-season break. The Liverpool No.9 was substituted shortly after to a great reception, the change likely made with one eye on the cup tie against Sunderland on Wednesday night.
Although Bristol had chances to pull a goal back, the calmness from the Liverpool defence meant the Reds closed out the game for their first league clean sheet of the season — Murray strong to clear from a set piece, Stout coming out and holding onto successive corners and who else but skipper Bonner with a well-timed sliding challenge in the penalty area in the dying seconds.
LIVERPOOL: Stout, Harris, Bonner, Easton, Pacheco, Staniforth (Omarsdottir 59), Zelem, Longhurst (Murray 45), Hodson, White, Dowie (Smorsgard 79)
Player of the Match: Hodson
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo