Liverpool FC Women secured their first three points of 2021 with a comprehensive victory over London Bees at Prenton Park on Sunday.
Becky Jane, Ceri Holland and Amy Rodgers all got on the scoresheet to hand Amber Whiteley her first victory since taking the reigns on an interim basis, with the win moving the Reds to within three points of third-placed Sheffield United, with a game in hand over the Blades.
Whitley raised a few eyebrows with her team selection, making six changes to the starting XI which conceded a last-gasp equaliser at Charlton three weeks ago.
Rachel Furness, Lucy Parry, Amalie Threstrup, Leighanne Robe, Amy Rodgers and Jessica Clarke all dropped out with Becky Jane, Jade Bailey, Ashley Hodson, Ceri Holland, Meikayla Moore and Kirsty Linnett coming in to start. There was still no place in the squad for wantaway star Rinsola Babajide who has continued to train alone.
Hodson and Holland both merited starting births after their impressive cameos against Charlton, whilst the Reds were glad to welcome Bailey back after a long injury lay-off.
Despite the changes, Liverpool made a bright start to the game with defender Moore heading over the crossbar from Kearns’ dangerous delivery after just four minutes.
They would take the lead five minutes later after a superb team move. Linnett picked the ball up in space before laying it off to Hodson. She then raced down the left and squared it to Jane, who tapped home from close range to score her first goal for the club.
The Bees showed signs they wouldn’t lie down easily and surrender to the Reds, and they almost equalised just moments after Liverpool had scored the opener.
The impressive Sophie Quirk, on loan from Reading, came inside and tried to bend an effort towards goal, but her shot rolled wide with Rachael Laws in the Liverpool goal scrambling.
At the other end, Liverpool continued to look dangerous each time they went forward, with Moore having her header cleared off the line from another expert corner from Missy Bo Kearns.
They had a golden opportunity to extend their lead on 15 minutes when Linnett pirouetted past her marker and and slipped it into the path of the onrushing Rhiannon Roberts, but she fired straight at Sarah Quantrill in the Bees’ goal when she really should have scored.
Liverpool had two more chances late in the half but were again thwarted by Bees captain Quantrill. She tipped Kearns’ thunderous strike from the edge of the area over the crossbar before palming away Holland’s half-volley a moment later, as the Reds held a slender one-goal lead at the break.Embed from Getty Images
They made a lacklustre start to the second period as London Bees grew into the contest and started to cause the Reds’ defence some problems.
Laws was called into action in the 54th minute, smothering at the feet of Lauren Pickett who seemed destined to prod home an equaliser. She then produced a terrific stop with her feet to prevent Amelia Hazard from scoring.
The turning point in the game came just after the hour mark when Whiteley opted to make a triple change, introducing Melissa Lawley, Rachel Furness and Amy Rodgers in place of Kearns, Linnett and Jane.
There was another scare for the Reds on 67 minutes when Quirk’s deep cross come shot clipped the top of the crossbar and went over.
Liverpool stepped it up a notch and almost got their second on 71 minutes when Furness met Rodgers’ pin-point corner kick, but the Northern Irish midfielder couldn’t direct her header on target as it flashed wide.
Whitley’s substitutes added an extra attacking impetus to Liverpool’s play and two of them were involved in creating the second goal with just 16 minutes remaining.
Furness picked the ball up from Niamh Fahey and fed Lawley, who spotted the run of Holland and executed a perfect through ball into the midfield. The full debutant did the rest, coolly nutmegging the goalkeeper to net her second goal in as many games since joining the Reds.
All three substitutes then combined for Liverpool’s third goal which sealed the victory with ten minutes remaining. It was Amy Rodgers who curled the ball into the far corner after a great run from Lawley, and a nice lay off from Furness.Embed from Getty Images
The Reds saw out the game comfortably with young Emily Brough coming on in place of Jade Bailey late in the match to make her debut at the tender age of 16.
The win and performance will no doubt be the morale boost the Reds need after a difficult period and they will be hoping to take that confidence into their next fixture away to Crystal Palace on Sunday.
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