Liverpool FC Women continued their recent uptick in form, extending their unbeaten run to six games after defeating Lewes 2-0 at Prenton Park on Sunday.
An own-goal in the first half and a header from Meikalya Moore in the second period handed the Reds a crucial victory in their push to surge up the table at this late stage of the season.
On a day when their promotion hopes were mathematically ended as Leicester were crowned Championship winners, Liverpool dropped down to fourth in the standings after the recent round of fixtures.
Sheffield United leapfrogging them into third as a result of having a better goal difference. The Blades are one goal ahead of Liverpool, after winning 3-0 at Crystal Palace yesterday.
The two sides will face off after the international break in another must-win tussle for the Reds.
The home victory over Lewes, in which Liverpool kept their fourth clean sheet in their last five games, does move Amber Whiteley’s side to within four points of Durham in second, and there is plenty still to play for when league action resumes in a fortnight’s time.
For now, Liverpool’s players will jet off with their countries with an extra spring in their step, given the assured performance they displayed on Merseyside on Sunday.
Amber Whiteley decided to make two alterations to the side following last weekend’s disappointing draw with Blackburn, with goal-scorer Missy Bo Kearns and winger Melissa Lawley dropping to the bench, and Kirsty Linnett and Ash Hodson taking their places.
Linnett’s inclusion allowed Furness to drop back into her favoured No.10 position whilst Hodson was a like-for-like replacement for Lawley, slotting in on the left wing.
The Reds made a bright start to the game and almost took the lead after just two minutes.
A free-flowing attack presented Linnett with a chance, and her arrowed shot was palmed away by Saunders before Holland was denied on the follow up by a deflection.
Their early pressure paid dividends as they took the lead with just seven minutes on the clock. Holland swung in a dangerous corner which was inadvertently headed into her own net by Cousins.
Lewes thought they had equalised 10 minutes later when Umotong slotted through the legs of Rylee Foster in the Liverpool goal, but the offside flag was raised.
The Reds continued to dominate possession, but had to wait until the 27th minute to muster another attempt at goal, with Linnett’s latest effort being tipped away by Saunders after Roberts had released her.Embed from Getty Images
Holland’s set piece delivery continued to cause problems, as another inswinging delivery was clawed away by Saunders, when it looked to be dipping in.
At the other end, Lewes causes their own problems from a corner, with only a goalmouth scramble preventing them from equalising.
Taylor Hinds almost doubled Liverpool’s lead just before half-time. Furness laid the ball into her path and the full back cut inside before unleashing a low shot which bobbled just wide.
The Reds started the second period as they did the first, with Linnett having an opportunity to further extend their lead. Hodson had slipped the ball through to the striker, but Saunders was out quick to smother before she could get her shot away.
Their persistence was rewarded on 55 minutes with a second goal, which came after some quick thinking with the player of the moment, Ceri Holland.
The midfielder took a short free-kick, catching the Lewes’ defence off guard. She released Hodson on the left and the winger delivered a pinpoint cross for which Moore, who had come up for the set-piece, was on hand to turn home with a stooping close-range header.
That gave the Reds breathing space and Whiteley was able to make a number of changes, bringing on the fresh legs of Lawley and Kearns in place of Jane and Holland.
Lewes almost pulled one back through Umotong, but Fahey and Moore were on hand to block her shots, before Roberts headed away her dangerous cross 13 minutes from time.
The game fizzled out in the closing stages, with neither side having any opportunities of note, which arguably suited Liverpool, who were able to knock the ball around with ease.
They were dealt a blow late on as they forced to play the final five minutes with 10 players. Jade Bailey went off with a suspected hamstring tweak with Liverpool having brought on Rodgers for Furness in their final change moments earlier.Embed from Getty Images
The Reds will be hoping it was a precautionary measure to withdraw her rather than risking aggravating the issue further by continuing. They will use the break to run the rule over the midfielder’s fitness and see if they can get her up to speed for the run in.
Bailey has been a key cog in the midfield in Liverpool’s current six-game unbeaten run and it would be a real shame for the Reds to lose her for an extended period again given she has missed a large chunk of this season.
Whiteley will have been pleased that the Reds were able to get the win and clean sheet against a stubborn side, having not played as well as they can do and given they were not able to last weekend against Blackburn.
There were a few shaky moments in their one half as they tried to play out from the back, but Fahey and Moore stood strong to ensure Foster had little to do on only her second start for the Reds.
This will need to be worked on when facing higher quality opposition, such as Leicester and Sheffield United in the coming weeks.
The Reds now have a week off, giving players who are not on duty with their national teams some much needed rest.
Liverpool will regroup after the international break as they set their sights on masterminding a cup upset, hoping to dump Leicester out of the fourth round of the FA Cup a week on Sunday.
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