Natasha Dowie fired a hat-trick as Liverpool Ladies ended their mini goal drought with a thumping 6-0 win over Sunderland in the Continental Cup group stage on Saturday night at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes.

Going into the game on the back of three matches without a goal, Matt Beard's reigning Super League champions returned to their best form in fine style with a first-class display.

The Reds made a bright start to the game and went close in the opening minute when Amanda Da Costa fired just past the post from 22-yards out.

The outstanding Gemma Davison then fired the Reds in front after three minutes. The summer signing from Arsenal let fly with a blistering drive from 25-yards out that flew into the back of the net, and it was a special moment for the England star who netted her first goal in a red shirt.

Dowie came close to making it 2-0 after 10 minutes but her attempted chip just cleared the bar.

Two minutes later Icelandic international Katrin Omarsdottir was unlucky to see her volley dip just over the top after a nice lay-off from Dowie.

Beard's side were playing some tremendous attacking football and Dowie was so unlucky not to find the net a minute later. A superb run from Claudia Walker set up Dowie and her left footed drive was brilliantly pushed around the post by Helen Alderson.

The Sunderland stopper then produced another brilliant save to keep out Da Costa after a mesmerising run down the right from Davison, and then from the resulting corner Gemma Bonner's effort was scrambled off the line.

German international Corina Schroder then made it 2-0 on 19 minutes after a fantastic team move. Dowie's unselfish running found Davison. The No.10 dribbled past two defenders before firing a low cross to the back post for Schroder to net.

A minute later it was almost 3-0 when Dowie's superb effort was brilliantly saved by Alderson, but the No.9 wasn't to be denied and from the resulting corner she glanced the ball home.

Dowie was at it again on 25 minutes when she turned and fired a stunning drive into the net to make it 4-0.

Dowie came close to her hat-trick on 35 minutes with a rasping drive that just cleared the bar.

In first half stoppage time the Reds nearly scored again when a Fara Williams corner was deflected onto the post by a Sunderland defender.

Goal machine Dowie got her hat-trick on 62 minutes when she found the net after a superb solo run.

Liverpool came close several times to adding more goals but a sixth did arrive on 86 minutes when Omarsdottir netted her second of the game after superb work from PFA Women's player of the year Lucy Bronze.

After a hectic schedule of matches Beard's side now face a break before they are back in action on May 14 when they travel to Manchester City in their third Continental Cup group match.

Liverpool Ladies: Danielle Gibbons, Becky Easton (Ellie Stewart 77), Corina Schroder (Megan Alexander 64), Fara Williams, Gemma Bonner, Lucy Bronze, Claudia Walker (Ashley Hodson 74), Katrin Omarsdottir, Natasha Dowie, Gemma Davison, Amanda Da Costa. Subs unused: Libby Stout, Martha Harris, Hannah Dale.