Liverpool Women were left frustrated on Sunday afternoon, as Vicky Jepson’s side were held to a goalless draw by Blackburn Rovers Ladies. The Reds were the dominant side, but once again paid the price for a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal as promotion rivals Leicester City and Durham took maximum points.
Having triumphed against Sheffield United following a brilliant solo goal from Rinsola Babajide, Liverpool’s trip to the Sir Tom Finney stadium looked like a winnable fixture, having beaten them 8-1 back in January. Indeed, with a clash against Durham not far off the horizons, Vicky Jepson would’ve identified Sunday’s game, alongside fixtures against Crystal Palace and London City as a golden opportunity to get maximum points and breakaway at the league summit.
That proved not to be the case, however, as Rovers’ Alexandra Brooks produced an inspired performance. It means the Reds lost further ground in their bid to return to the Women’s Super League, currently lying in third place after eight games played, three points off FA Women’s Championship leaders Durham.
Story of the match
Liverpool made a strong start to proceedings, forcing Alex Brooks into early action after Taylor Hinds’ cross fell to Ashley Hodson inside the area. Her strike fell into the path of Amalie Thestrup, who called the Blackburn goalkeeper into action on the turn.
The two best chances for Jepson’s side in the first-half soon followed, with Babajide breaking down the left-hand flank before fizzing a dangerous cross into the danger zone. Neither Melissa Lawley nor Ashley Hodson, who was the Reds’ best player before the interval, could get a telling touch at the back post, however, and the chance went begging.
Albeit having dominated the lion’s share of possession, Liverpool were almost undone at the other end as Elise Hughes’ through ball found Saffron Jordan 20 yards from goal. The Blackburn captain produced a great turn to wriggle room away from Niamh Fahey, but Rachael Laws showed great hands from close range to claw her effort away.
Moments later, the Reds were again in the ascendency, producing their best chance of the first half through Hodson. The midfielder’s cross from the left cannoned against the woodwork before falling to the feet of No.9, Thestrup.
The Danish international has struggled to make a major impact since joining in the summer, and after finding herself in space with the goal at her feet, blazed over the crossbar. It was a strike indicative of a player lacking in confidence, with goals proving few and far between in the opening eight games.
Replaced by Meikayla Moore 10 minutes into the second half, the game continued in similar fashion, with Liverpool continuing to create chance while the hosts grew into the contest, causing problems of their own.
Indeed, had the referee not prematurely blown up for handball by Fahey, Jordan may well have sent Blackburn into a valuable lead after capitalising on a long kick out from Brooks, breaking through on goal and slotting past Laws.
From then on it became largely one-way traffic, with Liverpool again undone by their inability to convert their chances. A promising counter-attack from Hodson down the right seemed the perfect opportunity to break the deadlock, squaring to Babajide in acres of space, but the forward, whose initial control of possession set the chance up well, failed to disguise her shot, with Brooks rushing out to stifle the effort.
If her strike against Sheffield last week was evidence of her ruthlessness, here she and her teammates were anything but as the No.10 later saw another chance thwarted after running through 1-vs-1 against Brooks. Her replacement after 81 minutes, Jess Clarke, could do no better in the dying embers of the match after Melissa Lawley’s cross found her unmarked and on the stretch at the back post.
While the Blackburn goalkeeper deserves credit for an inspired performance, Vicky Jepson’s side will be left ruing the missed opportunities, something that is fast becoming a theme this season. With the Championship currently on a knife edge and Liverpool’s title rivals winning, the Reds will be desperate for a response in the cup against local rivals Everton, before a return to league action against Crystal Palace, which is now a must win.
Takeaways from the game
Reds made to pay the price for poor finishing
When Liverpool last played Blackburn, they managed to grab eight goals in a thrilling spectacle of attacking football. Here, though, there were no signs of that cutting edge. Rinsola Babajide, lauded for her impressive strike against Sheffield United last time out, was one of several culprits who couldn’t convert golden opportunities in front of goal.
It is not the first time that Vicky Jepson’s side have struggled to put the game to bed, with draws against Lewes and Durham largely down to their inability to capitalise in key moments. In a league as competitive as this, with just one team gaining promotion at the end of the season, the Reds can ill-afford another repeat of Sunday’s frustrations.
Rachael Laws delivers when called upon
Just as she did against Sheffield, where she denied Hartley’s dangerous volleyed effort, Rachael Laws again rose to the occasion for Liverpool, pulling off a superb close range save to deny Blackburn an unlikely lead.
For all the away team’s dominance, the hosts created arguably the best chance of the first-half, and put for Laws’ efforts, it could’ve been a lot worse for Liverpool on Sunday. The goalkeeper has been in inspired form this season, offering a commanding and vocal presence in between the sticks and her ability to pull off key saves in big moments could prove invaluable come the end of the season.