By Emmet McEvoy
Arsenal Ladies resumed their Women’s Super League campaign in perfect fashion as Jordan Nobbs’ brace either side of a goal from Alex Scott secured an emphatic 3-0 win against Liverpool at Halton Stadium.
The result sees the Ladies move to within five points of Matt Beard’s side at the top of the league with two games in hand.
On an artificial pitch, Nobbs gave the Gunners side the lead inside ten minutes and Scott added a second before the break. Emma Byrne saved Natasha Dowie’s penalty with a quarter of the game remaining before Nobbs’ superb strike sealed the victory.
Captain Steph Houghton lined up alongside Gilly Flaherty in defence, while new signing Emma Mitchell made her debut at full-back. Teenager Jade Bailey started alongside Kim Little and Nobbs in midfield, with Gemma Davison and Danielle Carter supporting Ellen White in attack.
It was evident that Shelley Kerr’s side had a point to prove after the 4-0 defeat to Liverpool at Emirates Stadium in April and they were inches away from taking the lead early on when White’s cross just evaded Carter with the goal gaping.
Arsenal continued to apply pressure and the opening goal duly arrived just before the 10-minute mark. A poor clearance from Fara Williams was pounced on by Little in midfield. She found White down the right wing and the England international’s cross was swept home by Jordan Nobbs.
Liverpool responded well and had a chance when Corina Schroder fired over from just inside the box after 15 minutes. A few minutes later Amanda Da Costa created an opportunity for herself but missed the target when well placed.
In what was turning into an even game, Nobbs linked up well with Carter just after the half-hour before firing in a shot from 25 yards that was well held by Liverpool goalkeeper Rachel Laws.
Moments later Arsenal doubled their lead with another superb team goal.
Little was again the architect, roaming from midfield before finding White, who had timed her run perfectly to beat the offside trap. She took a touch before squaring for Alex Scott to stroke the ball into an open net.
They almost added a third seconds after play restarted. Mitchell controlled Davison’s cross with her chest before volleying just wide from the edge of the box.
"Patient build-up play ended when Carter laid the ball off for Nobbs, whose emphatic half-volley from just outside the box gave Laws no chance"
A few minutes into the second half Davison had a golden chance to increase the lead. She pounced on a loose touch by Lucy Bronze and found herself clean through but curled a shot inches wide of the post.
Arsenal were defending resolutely and refused to allow the hosts any time on the ball. Liverpool were limited to shots from range, with Louise Fors’ ambitious effort which went high and wide on the hour a case in point.
The Ladies continued to look dangerous on the break and Davison volleyed over from the edge of the box after good play by Scott created the chance.
Then came the pivotal moment of the match.
With a quarter of the game remaining, Liverpool were awarded a penalty when Houghton was adjudged to have fouled Dowie in the box. The striker picked herself up to take the spot-kick but Byrne dived to her left to make an excellent, and crucial, save.
That miss proved costly as Arsenal sealed the win with 15 minutes remaining. Patient build-up play ended when Carter laid the ball off for Nobbs, whose emphatic half-volley from just outside the box gave Laws no chance.
With just over ten minutes left, Katie Chapman made her return to the side after the birth of her third child, replacing Bailey. Kerr also handed a debut to Caroline Weir when she came on for Davison.
With the three points secured, Arsenal showed their professionalism and experience to keep hold of the ball, see out the result and ensure that there would be no blot on the copybook.
If ever there was a way to prove a point, this was it.
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