Natasha Dowie and Katrin Omarsdottir were on the mark as Liverpool Ladies qualified for the quarter-finals of the Continental Cup after a 2-0 win over Sunderland at the Select Security Stadium on Wednesday night.
Matt Beard’s charges made it four straight victories in their group after previous successes over Everton, Doncaster Belles and Durham.
A few weeks earlier both teams had played out a 2-2 draw in the Women’s Super League, but this time Liverpool Ladies were the superior side and created a whole host of great chances to have won by a greater scoreline.
In the opening two minutes of the game there was an injury scare for Sunderland when two of their players, Gemma Wilson and Victoria Williams, collided with each other.
After treatment both players tried to play on but Williams was the one that came off the worst and was forced off the field after seven minutes.
Liverpool Ladies then went close from a corner but Kate Longhurst could only fire the ball over the bar from close range after a great delivery from Rosie White.
Dowie was unlucky when a superb cross from Gemma Bonner fell invitingly in the penalty area, but the No.9 glanced her header just wide, and a minute later the exciting Ashley Hodson burst forward in typical style down the right and her cross was just cleared away as White looked set to pounce.
Beard’s side were dominating the game but just couldn’t convert their superiority into goals and there was always the danger of Sunderland breaking through on the counter-attack.
On 21 minutes a slip from Bonner let in Beth Mead, who was running clean through, but from out of nowhere the always dependable Becky Easton arrived in the nick of time to make a fantastic last-ditch tackle.
Two minutes later a superb pass from Omarsdottir sent Dowie racing clear, but after holding off the defender she blasted an effort that came back off the bar.
On 31 minutes the Ladies should have scored. Katie Zelem chased a loose ball and collided with the Sunderland goalkeeper Hilde Gunn Olsen, but as the ball dropped invitingly White’s effort lacked power and was cleared off the line.
Beard’s charges continued to dominate possession and look the more potent threat in attack, and Dowie missed a golden chance eight minutes before the break. Longhurst broke clear down the left flank, and her cross found the unmarked Dowie who could only blaze her effort high over the bar.
The second half began with both sides in lively form going forward. Only a fantastic block from Easton prevented Mead from finding the net, while at the other end Dowie saw her low drive superbly kept out by Gunn Olsen.
Martha Harris was then denied by the Sunderland stopper after a flowing move, before Liverpool Ladies eventually broke the deadlock on 59 minutes.
White’s corner from the left found the head of Dowie, who made no mistake to net her eighth goal in her last seven games.
To be fair to Sunderland, they didn’t lie down after conceding and found some momentum as they began to put pressure on Liverpool.
Beard’s charges had to be at their best defensively and as tempers began to fray from both sides, skipper Bonner was booked for a late challenge on Mead.
Carlton Fairweather’s side almost got a late equaliser but Libby Stout made a stunning stop to keep out Mead’s goalbound drive.
It was a big moment in the game as in the last minute the Reds made certain of victory when Dowie’s cross from the right found Omarsdottir, who slotted home for 2-0.
Overall, once again the magnificent home support was a big help for the players and they played a big part in the team managing to hold off a spirited Sunderland side and reach the last eight of the competition.
Liverpool Ladies: Stout, Harris, Pacheco, Easton, Bonner, Zelem (Smorsgard 64), Longhurst (Murray 74), Omarsdottir, Dowie, White, Hodson (Ryland 88). Subs not used: Darbyshire, Dale.