MIDFIELDER Katie Zelem’s brace almost sparked a late comeback for Liverpool Ladies away at Notts County.
County had raced into a 3-0 lead with an Ellen White double and a sublime strike from Jess Clarke. Zelem’s goals gave the Reds hope, but the game finished 3-2 to the home side.
There was just one change to the side defeated midweek by Chelsea; Laura Coombs had been unable to feature against her parent club and replaced Kate Longhurst in the midfield to join Zelem and Sophie Ingle.
The front three was again made up of Rosie White, Caroline Weir and Shanice Van De Sanden, while Natasha Harding, Gemma Bonner, Mandy Van Den Berg and Mayumi Pacheco completed the defence – Siobhan Chamberlain in goal.
Liverpool had actually started the game the brighter of the two sides, stroking the ball around and dominating possession in the opening 10 minutes.
The Reds carved out opportunities working down both flanks, Coombs and Harding exchanging passes on the right for Coombs to find White at the edge of the box. White’s volley went inches over the crossbar.
On the left, Pacheco played a diagonal ball into the area which was flicked on by Zelem and met by a stretching Van De Sanden, she could only tap the ball the wrong side of the post.
The game then began to turn in favour of the hosts, Liverpool unable to capitalise on their early pressure and Chamberlain sharp to be quick off her line, collecting a long ball sent over the top in search of Ellen White. A strong header from Pacheco then stopped Jess Clarke’s cross from hitting its target.
Notts took the lead in the 12th minute when Rachel Yankey, on loan from Arsenal, squared the ball to E White, the forward making no mistakes yards out from goal.
The Reds found themselves under attack again, Clarke sending a probing ball towards E White and Bonner seeing this out for a goal kick.
Both Clarke and Angharad James also saw efforts fly over the bar as they looked to double the lead. Coombs was an integral part of Liverpool’s midfield over the course of the game, an excellent turn and pass set Harding down the wing to again combine with Van De Sanden – the final ball into the arms of Carly Telford.
Telford was on hand to catch Zelem’s dangerous ball into the box that had both Weir and White on alert.
Before the Reds could get back in the game, Notts had a second; a sublime left-footed hit from Jess Clarke curling its way past Chamberlain and into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
With half-time looming, both keepers made important saves, Chamberlain diving low to her right to deny Leanne Crichton and Telford wise to Coombs’ strike following a deceiving cross by Harding.
Out for the second half, Liverpool again looked to get a foothold in the game, a crunching challenge from Harding on her Wales teammate James winning the ball back. Harding was getting up and down the wing well, with most of Liverpool’s movement down the right side of the pitch.
Liverpool were handed a lifeline when Van De Sanden was brought down in the box, Weir stepping up, but sending the spot kick wide.
Shortly after the missed penalty it was 3-0 to Notts, winning the ball deep in their own half and White pouncing to score her second on a quick counter attack.
A double substitution followed for Liverpool as Alex Greenwood returned from injury, replacing Pacheco, to face her former club and Emma Lundh on for R White.
Into the final 10 minutes of the game, the Reds sparked into life. Lundh this time fouled in the area and Zelem sending Telford the wrong way to convert from the spot, pulling a goal back.
Then another substitution made a difference; Longhurst had come on for Weir and gone to right-back, with Harding moving further up and the two created plenty of space on the right. Longhurst threaded a through ball to Zelem, the midfielder finishing well from a tight angle to give Liverpool hope.
Liverpool haven’t taken a point from Notts since Zelem scored the winning goal in a 1-0 win as the Reds were on their way to winning a second successive league title in 2014. This would continue here, despite Zelem almost completing a hat trick, meeting a Van De Sanden cross in the middle, but Telford was in the way this time and the Reds were unable to find an equaliser, the game finishing 3-2 to Notts County.
Liverpool Ladies: Chamberlain, Harding, Bonner (C), Van Den Berg, Pacheco (Greenwood), Zelem, Ingle, Coombs, Weir (Longhurst), White (Lundh), Van De Sanden
Player of the match: Laura Coombs