SCOTT Rogers first season in charge of Liverpool Ladies came to a disappointing end as his side were beaten 5-3 by Arsenal Ladies.
Sunday’s defeat at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes saw the Reds finish fifth overall in the FA Women’s Super League.
Satara Murray capped her hugely impressive second season at the club by opening the scoring with her first goal in a red shirt however a quick-fire brace from Danielle Carter put the visitors ahead.
Jordan Nobbs and Chloe Kelly scored for the Gunners either side of Shanice van de Sanden’s neat finish in the second half, before former Liverpool player Asisat Oshoala struck in injury time shortly before Caroline Weir volleyed home a late consolation in the high-scoring tie.
Ashley Hodson retained her place up front and was joined in attack by Natasha Harding and Niamh Charles, making her first start; in midfield Katie Zelem partnered Weir, just ahead of Kate Longhurst in front of the back four. Murray, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Mandy van den Berg completed the back four with Siobhan Chamberlain in goal.
Hodson and Charles were looking to link up in the early stages of the game, first Charles found herself in space and clipped the ball through to Hodson but her cross towards Harding was intercepted.
Charles got the better of Arsenal’s Emma Mitchell once more, skipping around her marker and attempting to thread Hodson through on goal but Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal was quickly off her line.
At the other end of the pitch it was Arsenal that were carving out the more clear-cut opportunities, Jodie Taylor glancing a header over the crossbar and Chamberlain stopping Danielle van de Donk’s long range volley from crossing the line.
Liverpool’s persistence on the right wing would then pay off, Murray swinging in a fierce cross that spun over van Veenendaal and into the top corner – the full-back’s reaction to opening the scoring, her first goal for the club no less, a mixture of surprise and amusement, providing one of the highlights of the season.
Unfortunately for the Reds this lead was short lived as Danielle Carter scored twice in quick succession with two stunning strikes from outside the box to put the Gunners ahead.
Both sides would have chances before half-time – first Zelem set up Weir six yards from goal but the linesman had already flagged for offside, then Harding was inches away from connecting with a cross from Charles.
Harding was also called upon in defence following a Fara Williams set-piece, the ball bouncing around in the area and van de Donk prodding it towards goal with Harding well positioned to block.
Liverpool almost capitalised on a quick counter attack early in the second half, Weir intercepting an Oshoala effort and the Reds racing forward only for Leah Williamson to intercept Harding’s cross.
But the Reds struggled to break through the Arsenal defence and they eventually capitalised through Jordan Nobbs, who extended the Gunners lead to 3-1 courtesy of another strike from outside the box.
Liverpool were quick to react, Rogers making a double substitution shortly before the hour mark as Shanice van de Sanden and Rosie White replaced Niamh Charles and Ashley Hodson.
Van de Sanden had an immediate impact, breaching the defence to square the ball to Weir who had made a run into the middle of the area only for van Veenendaal to produce a good save.
Just two minutes after entering the action van de Sanden pulled a goal back for Liverpool, Weir with a defence-splitting pass to van de Sanden, who applied the finish.
The Dutch winger could have had a hat-trick within five minutes, one strike hit the side netting before narrowly missing out on a chance to go through one-on-one with van Veenendaal.
Liverpool looked revitalised and Murray was rampant on the right, twice winning the ball deep in the Arsenal half to create chances for the Reds – the opposition ‘keeper coming out on top on both occasions.
But it was another substitution that would swing the game back into Arsenal’s hands, youngster Chloe Kelly – recently back from a loan spell with Everton Ladies – coming from the bench to convert an Oshoala cross and re-extend the Gunners lead to 4-2.
Former Liverpool attacker Oshoala also found the back of the net in injury time to put the result beyond doubt, before Weir struck a consolation volley in the 95th minute to ensure she finished the year as the Reds’ top goalscorer.
Despite the final day loss, this was only their second league defeat since May with six wins and three draws in that time; including an away win at Arsenal and two ties with league champions Manchester City – Liverpool the first side both to score past City and to take points from them.
Rogers has built an impressive squad, playing exciting football that can and will challenge with a couple of new additions.
The FA Women’s Super League will revert to a winter season from September 2017. To bridge the gap between now and then, a one-off Spring Series will be held from February to May..
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner (c), Ingle, van den Berg, Longhurst, Zelem (Lundh), Weir, Harding, Charles (van de Sanden), Hodson (White)
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Satara Murray