Liverpool Ladies 0-0 City Women
Competition: FA Women’s Super League 1
Venue: Select Security Stadium, Widnes (att: 936)
Date: 25 May 2016 (18:30)
After six league victories on the trot, and following on from their impressive away win over title rivals Chelsea last week, City Women headed to Widnes to take on Liverpool Ladies full of confidence. This was a team yet to concede in the WSL; a side who had scored 15 goals so far this season, averaging 2.5 a game. Liverpool have begun to improve under Scott Rogers, but with only two league wins to their name in 2016, the chance was there for City to cement their place six points clear at the top of the Super League. That the Blues left the Select Security Stadium with only a point certainly feels like a disappointment, particularly as Chelsea have a game in hand. Yet City remain undefeated in the league this year, and have retained their run of seven clean sheets on the bounce. There’s a lot to be pleased about for the Blues this season, and much more to look forward to.
A small mid-week crowd witnessed a rather disappointing, dull match, in which the initial chance went to the Merseysiders, midfielder Caroline Weir picking up an errant backpass, yet failing to test Karen Bardsley between the City sticks. The Reds threatened once more on 17 minutes, but luckily for City, Shanice van de Sanden put her chance wide. Unsurprisingly, it was Nikita Parris who registered City’s first effort of the match a minute later, as her curling shot was palmed away. Blues skipper Steph Houghton then tried one of her trademark free kicks, only to provide catching practice for Reds goalie Siobhan Chamberlain. Usually so ruthless in attack, the Blues were proving a tad lacklustre in the early stages.
Jane Ross, who’s bagged four goals for City this season, but hasn’t scored since the beginning of May, tried her luck from the edge of the box, only to see the chance deflect wide. All in all, a pretty mundane first 45 came to an end in Widnes, with City yet to find the shooting boots and swagger we’ve all grown accustomed to this year. The second half started out in much the same fashion, with Jennifer Beattie becoming the latest City player to let rip with a long-range effort, only to see it sail wide. The Merseysiders had a chance through van de Sanden, but the Dutch striker’s pass was snuffed out. Former Blue Natasha Harding found her cross blocked soon after, before Chamberlain twice thwarted City left-back Lucy Bronze. With the hour mark approaching, Blues boss Nick Cushing decided a change was needed, once again replacing Kosovare Asllani with Izzy Christiansen, as he did so in Staines last Thursday.
The Blues then enjoyed a good period of pressure, with Jill Scott’s ball only failing to find Toni Duggan because of Alex Greenwood’s interception. Further chances for Duggan and Bronze went begging, before Scott’s attempt to find Christiansen was stopped by Laura Coombs. The pendulum then swung in Liverpool’s favour, as captain Gemma Bonner’s free-kick almost resulted in Rosie White converting. Bardsley was truly called into action as Liverpool broke with van de Sanden, Weir and Harding bearing down on the City goal; fortunately for the Blues, England’s No 1. proved equal to the final effort.
With less than twenty minutes left of normal time, Daphne Corboz was thrown into the mix, replacing Duggan in the hope of giving City more purchase and creativity in midfield. There was always a sense that Liverpool were more likely to make the breakthrough, however. On 77 minutes, White had probably the best chance of the game, heading on to the bar. City made their final change soon after, a slightly quiet Nikita Parris coming off for Georgia Stanway, the hero of the hour the last time the Blues played in Widnes. City created one last bit of pressure on Liverpool’s goal in the dying seconds, but ultimately the fresh legs of the subs couldn’t break down Liverpool’s resistance either. Despite a whopping six minutes of injury time, Christiansen’s shot was all the Blues could muster, before Bronze blazed over at the death. All in all, City will feel like this was an opportunity missed, but credit has to be given to a resilient Liverpool side who thwarted the Blues’ attack and created more than a few chances of their own.
With 67% of possession, and 15 shots in total (according to BBC Sport), City really should have grabbed something from the game. Interestingly, only 4 of those 15 shots were on target. When you compare this to last week’s Chelsea game, where City managed 6 out of 10 shots on target – 60% as opposed to 27% – you get a sense that profligacy was to blame for this stalemate. City’s defensive midfielder Jennifer Beattie echoed this sentiment to the club’s website, claiming that despite the good results in general so far this season, the team ‘…don’t feel we’ve reached our full potential.’ The Scot told mcfc.co.uk that her side has ‘…been picking up results despite injury problems, which is excellent and as soon as we have the full squad back together, hopefully, we’ll show what we can do.’ It’s a good point, and all Blues will surely hope that Izzy Christiansen emerges from this summer break fighting fit and in top form. She could be the catalyst that helps City secure the league, after all.
It seems a little odd that the Women’s Super League stops for four weeks; it’s clashed with the Premier League already, after all, and will clash with some of the Euros, so why not have a shorter summer season, with regular games that will increase the excitement and encourage more people to attend? England Women play Serbia at home and away in early June, and there’s a couple of City-related surprises in Mark Sampson’s squad. Not only has Nikita Parris been called up – yep, my prayers really have been answered – but Toni Duggan, bizarrely, has been omitted. City still have a total of seven players represented, however, and hopefully this new look national side will allow some different faces the chance to shine.
By 26 June, summer, let’s hope, will be in full swing. City Women will take on Liverpool Ladies once more at home, hoping to maintain at least a four point lead over Chelsea. If the Blues keep on playing with such commitment, endeavour and grit, even when they have an off-day, as Widnes undoubtedly was, their talent will ultimately shine through. It’s gonna be a cracking second half of the season, as the Continental Cup swings into action, City press on with their title charge, and all eyes move towards Europe, and the Champions League. Make sure you’re part of it!
My Player of The Match: Karen Bardsley. Yet another string of fine saves resulted in her seventh consecutive league clean sheet. She’s helped out mightily by her impressive defence, but it’s about time Bards got a bit of recognition for the consistently solid goalkeeping work she does for City.
Liverpool Ladies (4-4-2): Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner (c), Ingle, Greenwood, Longhurst, Coombs, White, van de Sanden (Hodson 90), Weir (Lundh 83), Harding (Charles 87).
Unused subs: Gibbons, van den Berg, Pacheco, Zelem.
City Women (4-3-3): Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton (c), McManus, Stokes, Beattie, Scott, Parris (Stanway 80), Asllani (Christiansen 59), Duggan (Corboz 73), Ross.
Unused subs: Hourihan, Campbell, Tynan.
N.B. If you know a budding Bronze, mini McManus or pint-sized Parris, get them down to the Academy Trials at the CFA next month. Check out City’s website for more info. Good Luck!