It was a frustrating afternoon for Liverpool Ladies in their return to Super League action as they fell to a 1-0 defeat by Arsenal at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes on Sunday.

A goal from a set piece in the second half was enough to give the away side all three points and it is now just one win in five league outings for the reigning champions. However, the overall performance was enough to suggest a return to their best form might not be too far away.

Manager Matt Beard suffered a pre-match blow when influential goalkeeper Libby Stout picked up a knock during the warm-up and Danielle Gibbons was promoted from the bench.

However, the manager was boosted by returning duo Kate Longhurst and Katie Zelem, while new signing Nina Pedersen was on the bench.

Liverpool started the day fourth in the Women's Super League, just two points behind leaders Birmingham City, with the Gunners lying bottom of the table. However, the London side were boosted by appointing new manager John Bayer ahead of the clash with the Reds.

It was also a big day for Gemma Davison who was lining up against Arsenal for the first time since her summer move to Merseyside.

The Reds went close after 13 minutes when Lucy Bronze's drive from the edge of the area was well stopped by Emma Byrne, then from the well worked resulting corner Liverpool had an even better chance but the well placed Amanda Da Costa could only plant a header wide of the target.

On 17 minutes a great run down the right flank from Lucy Bronze saw her leave two defenders in a daze, but Kate Longhurst was crowded out as she attempted to carve out an opening.

Arsenal carried a threat on the counter attack and Gibbons showed she is certainly an able deputy for Stout with a brilliant save to keep out a close range effort from Alex Scott.

Two minutes later the Reds were nearly in front. A superb pass from Zelem carved open the Gunners defence but Corina Schroder couldn't provide the perfect assist as with Natasha Dowie lurking in the middle, Byrne smothered the ball and saved the day for her side.


On 34 minutes the Reds survived a scare when Danielle Carter surged into the penalty area and her deflected shot was almost turned into her own net by Bronze, as the ball bobbled just past the post.

Then a well worked Arsenal move with the influential Shinobu Ohno heavily involved, saw  Scott's well drilled low effort well saved by Gibbons.

Just before the break another superb run from Bronze almost created an opener. After Bronze was eventually crowded out, Davison's looping cross from the right caused problems for Byrne, but the goalkeeper just managed to adjust her feet and catch the ball right on the line.

The second half started with Bronze again causing problems for the Gunners down the right. An inviting pass found Da Costa in the penalty area, but the American international hesitated and was closed down.

On 51 minutes the away side were nearly in front when Carter closed in on goal, but just as she was about to pull the trigger, Reds skipper Gemma Bonner came to the rescue with a magnificent block.

From the resulting corner the Gunners took the lead when England international Casey Stoney fired home from close range after Gibbons uncertainty in palming away the loose ball - a poor goal for Beard's side to concede.

Six minutes later the home side had a glorious chance to level things up when Dowie was put through on goal, but the normally lethal No.9 could only fire the wrong side of the post into the side netting.

Beard then made a double change just before the hour mark when new signing, Danish U23 star Pedersen and Claudia Walker came on in place of Zelem and the injured Longhurst.

Arsenal then missed a guilt-edged chance to make it 2-0 on 61 minutes when the unmarked Rachel Yankey fired over the top after a superb pull back from Carter.

Then after some sustained pressure from Beard's charges Dowie had another chance but she could only direct a close range header straight at Byrne.

Gibbons then had to be at her best to keep Liverpool in the game with a smart stop to deny Ohno after a superb pass from Kelly Smith had opened up the Reds defence.

Liverpool tried to press for the equaliser but they just couldn't break down a well organised Arsenal defence led superbly well by Stoney.

The outstanding Bronze then volleyed a difficult chance over the top after a great cross from Walker but it just wasn't to be Liverpool's day.

Overall, a draw was probably the fairer result but undoubtedly the Reds are missing the creative influence of German star Nicole Rolser who is out of action with an ACL injury, and they have now gone three games without a goal.

Reflecting on the game, Beard told "I didn't think we deserved to lose but it was a disappointing goal to lose the game to.

"We played well in patches and had great chances with the Da Costa header and Dowie through on goal, but it was a disappointing day for us.

"Arsenal set out to frustrate us but they deserve credit as they defended well.

"We have still got plenty of points to play for and I'm confident we will soon start to score goals.

"Unfortunately we have picked up more injuries. We lost Libby in the warm-up, Becky Easton picked up a knock and Kate has a tight hamstring, so we'll have to see how they are. Injuries are part of football so we have just got to get on with it and do the best we can."

Liverpool Ladies: Danielle Gibbons, Becky Easton, Corina Schroder, Fara Williams, Gemma Bonner, Lucy Bronze, Kate Longhurst (Claudia Walker 58), Katie Zelem (Nina Pedersen 58), Natasha Dowie, Gemma Davison, Amanda Da Costa (Martha Harris 83). Subs not used: Ellie Stewart, Hannah Dale, Ashley Hodson. 

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