Liverpool FC Women correspondent Lauren McCann reports as the Reds continued their fine start to the new season in front of 4,000 fans in South Yorkshire.
Liverpool FC Women recorded their third consecutive victory in the league with a 2-0 away win against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday, to ensure they remain just two points behind early table-toppers Durham.
Two first half goals from Charlotte Wardlaw and Leanne Kiernan were enough to hand the Reds, who leapfrogged their opponents into second place and extended their unbeaten run to five games in front of a 4,000-strong crowd in Yorkshire.
Matt Beard made three changes to the side who defeated Coventry by the same scoreline last weekend, with captain Niamh Fahey, Rachel Furness and Yana Daniels all coming in from the start and Meikayla Moore, Missy Bo Kearns and record appearance holder Ashley Hodson all dropping to the bench.
Their only notable absentee from what was a strong bench was summer signing Rianna Dean, who posted on Twitter before the game that she was ruled out with an unspecified injury.
A quartet of former Liverpool players lined up for the Blades with Fran Kitching, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, Jess Clarke and Sophie Bradley-Auckland all selected to start by ex-Reds boss Neil Redfearn.
Liverpool made a lively start to the game and should have taken the lead with just two minutes on the clock as Jasmine Matthews headed over the crossbar from a matter of yards out after being found by an inch-perfect free-kick delivery from Taylor Hinds.
They would eventually go in front five minutes later courtesy of a superb strike from Chelsea loanee Wardlaw. The right-back drove inside and weaved her way past a defender before curling a shot over the reach of Kitching and into the top corner, to open her account for the Reds in style.
The home side were made to wait until the 26th minute to fashion their first opportunity on goal, with Sophie Watson firing into the side netting from an acute angle after bustling her way into the area.
Liverpool would make the hosts regret missing that chance when Kiernan doubled their advantage on 37 minutes. The striker nodded home unmarked inside the area after getting on the end of a pinpoint cross from Furness.
It is a second time those two have combined in the last two fixtures and it was Kiernan’s third goal in two games after her double against Coventry last weekend.
They almost had a third four minutes before the break following another free flowing move. Wardlaw’s deep cross eventually fell to Hinds at the back post and she saw her low strike parried by Kitching as far as Kiernan, who was also denied by a superb reaction save from the Blades’ stopper.
The Reds continued to dominate in the second period with Wardlaw’s teasing deliveries from the right hand side causing all sorts of problems for the Sheffield United defence.
She swung in a dangerous one just after the hour mark, but Kiernan, despite being unmarked, was unable to get the connection she desired on it and her header went over the crossbar.
Kearns came off the bench on 77 minutes and then missed a glorious chance to put the icing on the cake with a goal in injury time. Holland dispossessed Watson with a sliding challenge and the ball broke kindly for Kearns, who galloped forward into the box before eventually dragging her shot wide of the target.
It wouldn’t matter too much in the end as the Reds came away with a vital win following a commanding performance. They were by far the better team throughout the encounter, looking dangerous every time they ventured forward whilst also limiting the hosts to a few half chances.
The displays of both Hinds and Wardlaw, who was voted the player of the match after the game, were both eye-catching as the young defenders again excelled both in their defensive work and, more impressively, going forward.
They were part of a defence which has now kept two clean sheets in a row and three all season, and the settled nature of the back four is certainly starting to pay dividends for Beard.
Furness justified her start by contributing with another assist for Kiernan, who really looks to have found her feet for the Reds as she is now chipping in with goals to add to her pleasing performances.
The only negative aspect of the game was losing Hodson to injury late in the game. The winger came on for Kiernan on 87 minutes, but was then replaced by Humphrey in stoppage time. It is not yet known the extent of the injury but Beard will be hoping it isn’t too serious given her fine start to the season.
The Reds will be buoyed by that huge result ahead of another tough fixture on Wednesday night, when they welcome WSL side Aston Villa to Prenton Park for their first Continental Cup game of the season.
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