FOR the second time in as many matches, Liverpool Ladies ground out a 1-0 FA Women’s Super League victory — a win that leaves the Reds now unbeaten in eight as the league enters its final quarter.
Reading Women had a penalty saved and a strike cleared off the line before substitute Katie Zelem fired an unstoppable effort past Mary Earps and into the top corner in the 85th minute.
There was just one change to the side that defeated Doncaster Belles with Rosie White returning in place of Shanice Van De Sanden.
Reading were quickest out the blocks, targeting the left of Liverpool’s defence, with Rebecca Jane steering wide before sending a cross into the box looking for Emma Follis and Jade Boho-Sayo only for Siobhan Chamberlain to rise highest and claim.
Jane and Boho-Sayo drifted wide again minutes later to exchange passes, this time Mandy Van Den Berg threw herself in front of Boho-Sayo’s attempted cross. The subsequent throw-in led to a shot being deflected narrowly wide and Chamberlain reached the corner first.
Liverpool’s defence has conceded just twice since letting in six away at Chelsea back in April and they were forced to be at their best as Reading, without a win yet this campaign, threatened again.
Gemma Bonner deflected Follis’ strike out for a corner, this cleared by Mandy Van Den Berg at the near post and once more hit goalwards only to again be thwarted by Bonner.
The Reds, wearing the toxic green third strip, played a patient game — one which was praised by Natasha Harding following the win over Doncaster — and grew into the half.
Rosie White was linking defence to attack brilliantly with Kate Longhurst and Laura Coombs in the middle, White sending a looping ball towards the 18-yard box that reached Harding, Harding flicking on with her head and Emma Lundh in pursuit but she was beaten to the ball by Earps.
White’s excellent turn midway through the first half during a Liverpool counter attack allowed her to reach Lundh, the Swedish number nine charged forward however was forced wide and Reading were able to clear their lines.
While Reading started the half strongest, it was Liverpool that ended on top — Earps plunging to stop Harding and at full stretch to tip Coombs’ long range shot onto the crossbar.
Despite plenty of endeavour from both sides half time came with neither finding a breakthrough.
The game continued at the same speed second half, Rachel Rowe’s cross prevented from meeting its target by the superb Bonner and Chamberlain punching away a Boho-Sayo shot then stopping a Reading set piece regardless of seeing it late.
Caroline Weir ensured Liverpool threatened through a set piece of their own, a great ball from the half-way line chased by both Harding and White but Reading managed to scramble the ball away.
Ultimately it was Scott Rogers’ substitutions that turned the game in Liverpool’s favour. Shanice Van De Sanden was introduced in the 61st minute and proved a handful for the so-far sturdy Reading defence.
The game opened up as Van De Sanden began to carve out opportunities, getting behind the back line and cutting the ball along the six-yard box.
Shortly after her introduction a penalty was awarded to Reading. The reasoning was unclear but it appeared to be given against Chamberlain for bringing down a forward. Unnerved, the Reds stopper dived to her right to deny Lauren Bruton from the spot.
Then Harding found Van De Sanden, the ball tapped to the feet of Coombs who could only watch as her strike blazed over the crossbar.
Reading went close again, Melissa Fletcher’s cross bouncing back off the post and along the goal-line only for Bonner to somehow knock the ball out for a corner.
It was end-to-end, Liverpool countering in droves with the strength of Coombs and Longhurst in the midfield key against Bruton and Remi Allen.
Van De Sanden was joined off the bench by Katie Zelem and the two linked immediately, Coombs playing a one-two with Van De Sanden at the edge of the area and sending the ball to Zelem who missed it by inches.
The game reached a terrific crescendo, replicating the feeling of a cup final with both sides going all-out and Reading goalkeeper Earps twice saving from Weir before eventually being beaten by Zelem’s hit; the young midfielder unleashing her shot that flew past Earps and into the far-right corner to send the travelling Reds in the stands wild.
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner, Ingle, Van Den Berg, Longhurst, Coombs, White (Zelem 74), Lundh (Van De Sanden 62), Harding, Weir.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Laura Coombs