A CROWD of 1,897 watched as Liverpool Ladies defeated FAWSL1 newcomers Yeovil Town Ladies 4-1 at Huish Park on Sunday afternoon.
Alex Greenwood gave Liverpool the lead from the penalty spot, Gemma Bonner converted a corner on the stroke of half-time and Katie Zelem came from the bench to net twice in the second half. Sarah Wiltshire also bagged a goal from the spot as Yeovil pulled back a late consolation.
The Reds, playing in Yeovil’s yellow away strip after leaving their kit back in Widnes, controlled the game from the opening whistle, looking hungry for goals and showcasing wonderfully free-flowing attacking football.
Greenwood and Niamh Charles on the left wing, Shanice Van De Sanden and Ashley Hodson on the right and Caroline Weir ahead of the returning Laura Coombs in midfield all key partnerships across the pitch, with Natasha Harding leading the line up front.
Kate Longhurst partnered Coombs in the middle of the field, while Sophie Ingle dropped back into defence – Casey Stoney missing out on the trip – to play alongside Bonner and Siobhan Chamberlain in goal.
It took just three minutes for Liverpool to create their first goal scoring opportunity; Harding was brought down outside the 18-yard box and raced onto Greenwood’s set-piece – Yeovil goalkeeper Charlotte Haynes quick to react and tip the ball away.
Harding then matched the run of Van De Sanden a minute later, the Dutch international’s low cross however a yard behind Harding and the Yeovil defence able to clean up at the back.
Next it was Weir with two chances in quick succession, first firing just wide of the target after exchanging passes with Coombs 30 yards from goal and then seeing a well-taken free-kick saved by the ‘keeper.
Midway through the first half, with the Reds pressure continuing to build, Charles rifling effort from the edge of the box came crashing back off the post and the ball landed at the feet of Van De Sanden who in turn fed through Weir. The nominee for the PFA Player of the Year’s took a crack at goal that was handled in the area and Greenwood stepped up, sending the goalie the wrong way to coolly convert the penalty.
In defence Players’ Player of the Year Ingle seamlessly slotted back in alongside Bonner and Liverpool defended well as a unit; Hodson got the better of Kelly Snook after she looked to have been put through by Nia Jones while Ingle got across to snuff out a well-worked counter attack from the hosts.
The Reds then impressed on a quick counter of their own, Bonner and Coombs teaming up to clear a Yeovil set-piece and Liverpool fast out of the blocks in a move that ended with Harding’s hit deflected wide.
Greenwood took the resulting corner that bounced once in the box before Reds captain Bonner prodded the ball home from six yards.
Liverpool continued committing players forward as they kicked off the second half, Weir slipping the ball wide to Greenwood and her cross flicked on by Harding yet Van De Sanden was unable to reach it.
Greenwood was up and down the left flank all afternoon, not shirking from her defensive duties as shown when the England left-back chased down Yeovil’s Lucy Quinn and strongly won the ball back for the Reds.
The chances were flowing for Liverpool; Coombs could only guide a Van De Sanden cross over the crossbar while Van De Sanden saw a rocket of a shot initially spilled by the ‘keeper who recovered quickly under the threat of the looming Coombs.
With 30 minutes to play Zelem entered the field to replace Weir and had the ball in the back of the net seven minutes later – tapping Van De Sanden’s low ball past Haynes.
The game threatened to hit a lull with the Reds in cruise control and 3-0 ahead. The perfect time then for Liverpool boss Scott Rogers to introduce exciting new signing Jess Clarke, the winger signed from the now-defunct Notts County Ladies before the transfer window shut earlier this month.
Clarke sparked the tie back into life and immediately flung herself into the action, curling a strike from 25 yards towards the near post however Haynes had it covered.
Then, just after Yeovil had had claims for a penalty of their own waved away by the referee, the unforgiving Reds made it four through the same combination of the third – Van De Sanden once more teeing up Zelem.
Yeovil had the penalty they had been crying out for with 13 minutes left on the clock, a controversial spot-kick awarded against Sophie Ingle and Sarah Wiltshire scoring a consolation for the large home crowd.
With the three points secured Rogers also introduced 16-year-old Amy Rodgers for her first-team debut. Rodgers signed for the Reds Development side from Manchester United and has impressed during their successful season.
Another substitute that refused to shy away from the action, Rodgers was straight in combining with Coombs to win the ball in midfield and strongly heading away an Annie Heatherson cross.
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Hodson, Bonner (c), Ingle, Greenwood, Longhurst (Rodgers), Coombs, Weir (Zelem), Van De Sanden, Charles (Clarke), Harding
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Alex Greenwood
Liverpool Ladies are back in action on Friday night, the Reds play Reading Women at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes at 7pm. Entry for all LFC season ticket holders and members is free of charge, alternatively adults pay just £6 on the gate.