By Nik Brumsack at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal Ladies’ Women’s Super League season got off to the worst possible start with a 4-0 defeat to Liverpool at Emirates Stadium.
In the end, a spell of three goals in seven second-half minutes killed the game off after the visitors had gone into the break a goal to the good.
The scoreline did not tell the whole tale though. Arsenal had three efforts cleared off the line and struck the woodwork on a further three occasions in a crazy encounter where the final score could have been so very different.
This was the Ladies’ first league defeat in 21 months and Shelley Kerr must quickly pick her side up. There are still 13 games left to play and Arsenal will cause teams major problems this season.
The head coach made one change from the side that had drawn against Lincoln in the Continental Cup on Thursday evening, with the versatile Jennifer Beattie replacing the injured Niamh Fahey at left back.
Ever-presents Gilly Flaherty and Ciara Grant lined up at the heart of defence with Alex Scott on the right.
Ellen White was once again named in the lone striker’s role, with Danielle Carter, Kim Little and Gemma Davison providing assistance from deep.
Kerr had named an attacking line-up, so it came as no surprise that the game began in breathless fashion.
Both sides threw numbers forward from the off in an attempt to grab the early initiative.
It was Arsenal who looked the more dangerous.
After just six minutes, Grant’s firm header from Little’s corner beat Sarah Quantrill but not Fara Williams who was placed on the line.
Davison was next to threaten, robbing Whitney Engen in the area before firing in a shot which Quantrill saved well.
The onslaught continued and, after fantastic interplay between Jordan Nobbs and Little freed White, Engen sprinted back to flick the chipped effort off the line.
As time elapsed, Liverpool grew into the game and Matt Beard’s side got their reward 37 minutes in.
Just minutes after Natasha Dowie had blazed over when through on goal, Amanda Da Costa found space 20 yards out before squeezing a shot under Emma Byrne.
The Ladies came roaring back and created a host of chances before the break.
Little saw one effort cleared off the line before another was deflected just wide. From the resulting corner, White’s header looped off the top of the crossbar.
The half-time whistle had come at just the wrong time for Kerr’s side. The pressure had been ramped up and a goal seemed inevitable.
So it came as a shock when the game was ended as a contest in a crazy six-minute spell at the start of the second half.
Da Costa grabbed her second after 51 minutes, tapping home Corina Schroder’s cross.
Shortly after, it was three when Louise Fors’ inviting corner was nodded home by Dowie.
There would be no let-up. The visitors played on with Davison nursing an injury by the touchline. A loose ball broke to Williams who slid a pass through for Fors to confidently slide past Byrne.
To their credit, Kerr’s side continued to make chances of their own.
Beattie shot wide from close range, Little rattled the post and Houghton headed wide when well-placed.
Five minutes from time, Scott got to the byline and delivered a cross which Houghton seemingly had to convert. But out of nowhere, Quantrill sprang across her goal to make a fantastic save.
When Houghton did beat the goalkeeper three minutes later, the post again came to Liverpool’s rescue.
It was just one of those nights.
Referee: Alexandra Ihringova
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