LIVERPOOL Ladies maintained their unbeaten start to the FA Women’s Super League Spring Series at Arsenal Ladies on Thursday night, holding the Gunners to a 4-4 draw.
Alex Greenwood’s opening goal was initially cancelled out by Chloe Kelly, yet Natasha Harding and Caroline Weir scored before the break to give the Reds a 3-1 lead.
In the second half it was the Gunners who edged ahead, Danielle Carter scoring twice and Jordan Nobbs making it four with 10 minutes to play.
Liverpool captain Gemma Bonner then netted an equaliser, rising highest to head Greenwood’s corner into the back of the net and ensure the Reds went back to Merseyside with a point.
The Reds had started brilliantly, putting the hosts on the back foot from the opening whistle.
Weir’s presence in the middle of the pitch was the catalyst, in the first minute dribbling her way past three Arsenal players to cut the ball wide towards Greenwood. Then Weir almost played through Shanice Van De Sanden only for the linesman to flag the Dutch winger offside.
Liverpool were creeping closer, attacking in droves; Laura Coombs winning the ball from England vice-captain Nobbs on the halfway line, getting the ball to Charles whose cross couldn’t reach Harding.
Any attempt the Gunners made to forge an attack of their own was soaked up by the defence; Ashley Hodson preventing Carter from turning at the edge of the box, Siobhan Chamberlain gathering Leah Williamson’s effort from distance, and Greenwood shielding the ball out for a throw and away from Kelly.
The Reds pressure continued to build as they looked more likely to capitalise on their efforts. Harding has been in fine form so far this season and a great run down the left wing earned a corner that was first batted away by the Gunners defence.
From this Liverpool pushed back in, winning a throw-in close to the touchline. Harding took the throw which was flicked on by Bonner yet unable to fall at the feet of a Liverpool player – cleared out for another corner.
Greenwood’s set-piece delivery has provided the Reds with plenty of opportunity in recent weeks, but she saved this one for herself. Stepping up to take the corner and swinging it straight into goal with her left foot to give Liverpool a deserved lead.
Rattled after falling behind, the hosts stepped up their game. Nobbs’ cross headed wide by Anna Patten, Coombs intercepting a low cross intended for Nobbs from Carter and a corner thrice cleared by each of Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Casey Stoney.
An equaliser came for the Gunners as Kelly converted Carter’s cross at the near post.
In the game last Friday against Reading, both Greenwood and Niamh Charles had shone out on the left and Charles was once again a stand out here.
The youngster forcing a corner following a superb run, cutting in from the left and shimmying around a defender to hit a sweet strike – the shot matched by a great save as Sara Van Veenendaal somehow managed to tip it over the crossbar.
It was from the resulting corner that the Reds regained the lead, the ball bouncing around the area before Van Veenendaal’s attempt to clear hit Harding on the back and rolled over the line – they all count, as the Wales international would say after the game and Harding has now scored five goals in six games in 2017.
Charles could count herself unlucky not to be on the scoresheet again just a minute later, powering forward and playing a one-two with Van De Sanden but again denied by Van Veenedaal.
However Charles’ work wasn’t done for the first half and an excellent ball was headed into the back of the net by Weir – giving Liverpool a 3-1 lead at the break.
The tables turned in the second half, shortly after Stoney was forced to withdraw – replaced by Katie Zelem with Ingle stepping back into central defence – Carter cut in from the right to curl a strike in at the near post.
A double substitution followed for the Gunners, former USA international Heather O’Reilly and England striker Jodie Taylor on for Charlotte Wubben-Moy and Kelly – the change giving Arsenal more zip in attack as they began to look the more threatening side.
With just over half an hour to play, Arsenal had their equaliser. A near match for her previous goal, Carter once again scored from outside the box.
Liverpool began to find their feet again with the score level. Zelem laid the ball off for Greenwood to shoot from distance, and Charles almost teed up Van De Sanden only for the Dutch winger to be stopped once more by her international team mate Van Veenendaal.
As the game entered its final stages, Nobbs fired the Gunners into the lead for the first time and Liverpool were defending wave after wave of Arsenal attacks.
Having already scored from two set-pieces, anticipation was high when Harding ran past two Arsenal defenders to win another corner for the Reds.
Duly, it was Reds captain Bonner who rose highest to head the equaliser past Van Veenendaal – her second in three games – and Liverpool held on to secure the 4-4 draw.
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Hodson, Bonner (c), Stoney (Zelem), Greenwood, Ingle, Coombs, Weir, Van De Sanden (Longhurst), Charles (Clarke), Harding
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Laura Coombs