LIVERPOOL LADIES put four past Women’s Super League 2 side Sheffield F.C. in a friendly today, 21 players featured across the 90 minutes with Caroline Weir, Rosie White, Emma Lundh and Kate Longhurst all on the score sheet.
It’s been three and a half weeks since Liverpool were last in action, the league game away at Chelsea postponed on the morning of due to a waterlogged pitch, an international break for Euro 2017 qualifiers and this weekend being FA Cup semi-finals weekend meaning that Liverpool would have gone over a month without playing.
The Anfield Wrap spoke to Reds boss Scott Rogers on the fixtures list during the break, Rogers commenting that the season plays out like a series of mini leagues. Indeed before several Liverpool players left on international duty, the new-look side had played only one league game and now face four in a fortnight – including home and away ties against holders Chelsea.
This friendly gave Rogers the opportunity to give game time to players who hadn’t been away and also, with the development squad’s game in Birmingham called off, a chance to integrate a number of youth players into the team.
Recent u17s title winner Charles was given a start on the left wing, joined across the midfield by Coombs, White and Weir with Longhurst playing the role of holding midfielder in front of Pacheco, Van Den Berg, Bonner and Harris in defence, Gibbons in goal and Lundh leading the charge up front.
For the opening 10 minutes Sheffield flew out the blocks at Liverpool, predominantly attacking down the left wing without much luck against Harris and Bonner.
The Reds began to find their feet and to say Charles impressed would be an understatement, unfazed the young winger battled for the ball, beating the full-back on numerous occasions and demonstrating her pace out wide to create space, overlapping well with Pacheco.
Liverpool’s first chances came from successive set pieces, Weir seeing a free kick headed out for a corner from which the Scotland international found Longhurst 20-yards out, Longhurst striking the ball wonderfully on the volley and seeing her effort crash back off the post.
The home side also went close, Gibbons expertly down at her near post to deny them the opening goal and Lundh heading clear the resulting corner.
It was looking more likely to be Liverpool that opened the scoring, Longhurst going close again and Coombs – looking sharp with a number of intelligent runs and turns – firing over the crossbar.
The opening goal came shortly after the half hour mark, Weir smashing the ball across the face of goal and into the far corner from 8-yards out. The Reds attacking in numbers with around 4-5 players in the box as Weir unleashed her shot.
This lead was to be short-lived, an harsh handball decision given against Pacheco allowed Carla Ward to convert from the penalty spot to draw the score level at 1-1.
Confusion then reigned at the opposite end of the pitch, successive corners from Weir again causing trouble in the host’s penalty area and, after initially seeming to award another corner, the referee then pointed to the spot after conversing with the linesman.
Weir stepped up but saw her spot kick punched away by the goalkeeper before White arrived to score from the rebound putting Liverpool back ahead as the half drew to a close.
Rogers made two substitutions at half-time, Bonner replaced by Beckwith and Harris off for Fletcher making his first team bow.
As in Italy on her Liverpool debut Beckwith put in a composed display, Van Den Berg also a second half stand out amongst the youthful back line.
Not long into her debut and Fletcher had an assist to her name, the right-back finding Lundh who charged into the box and sent a shot into the back of the net, making it 3-1 to Liverpool.
3-1 up and in cruise control, the chances continued to flow for the Reds. White had a strike ruled out for offside, Charles unlucky twice – first causing trouble in the middle after the Sheffield keeper fumbled a corner then seeing an effort tipped over the crossbar with a fine reaction save – and Coombs watching an overhead kick sail into the keepers arms.
Sheffield weren’t without opportunities of their own, Gibbons pushing a corner onto the bar and then gathering the ball under pressure from an incoming forward, the Reds defence mightily impressive, never appearing rushed and looking thoroughly in control.
The lead was extended to three when Longhurst appeared to get the final touch on an excellent free kick delivery from Weir.
The substitutions continued throughout the second-half, Zelem coming in for Lundh, Welsh duo Harding and Ingle on for Pacheco and Longhurst, Van De Sanden replacing White – and hitting the post following an electrifying cutting run across the box.
Green also came on for Weir while a late trio of development players saw goalkeeper Carberry making her debut, Taylor also with her first senior appearance and Elmore, who had featured during 2015’s pre-season; the trio leaving the field Gibbons, Coombs and Charles.
There was still time for one more goal, Sheffield reducing the deficit to 4-2 on what will have been a pleasing afternoon for Rogers, plenty of encouraging, positive performances and strength in depth for the upcoming run of games.
Liverpool Ladies: Gibbons (Carberry), Harris (Fletcher), Bonner (Beckwith), Van Den Berg, Pacheco (Harding), Longhurst (Ingle), Coombs (Taylor), White (Van De Sanden), Weir (Green), Charles (Elmore), Lundh (Zelem)
Next up for Liverpool Ladies they face Sunderland at Select Stadium, Widnes on Saturday, April 23, kick-off 5:30pm.
All pics: Ian Stevens