LIVERPOOL Ladies were held to a 2-2 draw by Sunderland Ladies in Widnes.
Having raced into a 2-0 lead with goals from Caroline Weir and Laura Coombs, former Everton midfielder Brooke Chaplen struck either side of half time to give the visitors a share of the points.
There were two changes to the side that beat Birmingham City last time out in the league – Caroline Weir and Laura Coombs in for Katie Zelem and Alex Greenwood.
Due to Greenwood missing out Natasha Harding played left back alongside an otherwise unchanged back line of Martha Harris, Gemma Bonner and Mandy Van Den Berg; Siobhan Chamberlain in goal. Sophie Ingle played ahead of the defence, Kate Longhurst and Coombs joining her in midfield behind the front three of Weir, Emma Lundh and Shanice Van De Sanden.
Sunderland made a strong start to the game, a week on from their 7-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal, Beth Mead and Brooke Chaplen linking well and moving the ball with ease from one side of the pitch to the other.
Chaplen attempted to pick out Krystle Johnston on the right, Harding intercepting the pass and briefly clearing before being called upon defensively once more, this time under pressure from former FIFA Puskas Award nominee Stephanie Roche.
Again Harding managed to get the ball clear, Longhurst picking it up in the middle of the pitch and playing through her midfield partner Coombs. Coombs, seeing her strike, closed down at the edge of the area.
Reds number 1 Chamberlain was then called into action twice, first with a superb save to tip Mead’s dipping volley over the crossbar and then strongly holding onto Johnston’s fierce long range effort.
The game began to tip in Liverpool’s favour. Bonner’s long ball looking for Lundh, intercepted but nicked back by Weir, who shot wide. Moments later though, the Scotland international would open the scoring; Van De Sanden’s strike hit the post and fell to Weir, who tapped the ball over the line from inside the six-yard box.
Van De Sanden was instrumental in the Reds second goal, a wonderful move that saw Harris winning the ball deep in the Liverpool half. Harris got the ball to Weir, who found Van De Sanden making a run into the box.
Black Cats keeper Hilde Gunn Olsen came out off her line, diving for the ball, only for Van De Sanden to skip past her and send a low cross towards Coombs, a neat flick from the on-loan midfielder giving Liverpool a two-goal lead.
Sunderland pulled one back when Chaplen met a Kylla Sjoman free kick, heading the ball past Chamberlain.
The visitors were forced into a substitution shortly after, Sjoman requiring lengthy treatment on the pitch and being replaced by Danielle Brown.
Into the second-half, Sunderland began much the way they had the first. Chamberlain had to be quick to gather a set piece and pressure from Bonner saw Johnston fire wide.
The Reds captain then produced a stunning challenge yards from goal, denying Chaplen an equaliser – for now – and allowing Van Den Berg to clear.
Liverpool had chances to re-extend their lead to two goals, Longhurst volleying over the crossbar and substitute Katie Zelem, who had not long replaced goal scorer Coombs, curled a shot towards the near post that went inches wide.
With an hour played, Sunderland grabbed their equaliser. Roche’s attempt was cleared off the line by Van Den Berg, but fell to Chaplen who doubled her tally for the afternoon, making it 2-2.
Last Sunday during the 4-2 friendly win in Sheffield, young winger Niamh Charles had mightily impressed and the 16-year old was handed her Liverpool debut, coming on for Lundh. Charles was swiftly involved in the thick of the action, again looking completely unfazed by the occasion, constantly showing for the ball and sending a great cross towards Weir; Weir controlling and seeing her shot deflected out for a corner.
With full time looming, both sides went all out for the winning goal, Charles unfortunate to be unable to get a shot in while being closed down by three Sunderland defenders, and Harris shooting wide after latching onto Weir’s rebound.
It was Sunderland who had the game’s final chance, awarded a free kick on the edge of the penalty area – former Liverpool midfielder Lucy Staniforth looking to be one of the candidates to take the set piece – yet Chaplen, looking for her hat-trick, sent the ball over the crossbar and the hard-fought league tie ended 2-2.
Liverpool Ladies: Chamberlain, Harris, Bonner (C), Van Den Berg, Harding, Ingle, Coombs (Zelem), Longhurst, Weir, Van De Sanden, Lundh (Charles)
Player of the Match: Shanice Van De Sanden