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Women's Football News
Liverpool 1 (Murray 81) Sunderland 2 (Mead 27, Chaplen pen 78)
The opening match of the FA WSL 1 season conjured up one its biggest ever shocks as newly promoted Sunderland made a dramatic impact by beating Champions Liverpool 2-1 at the Halton Stadium.
The result was no more than the Wearsiders deserved and star young striker Beth Mead shone on her debut at this level with a goal as well as winning the decisive second half penalty to seal the points against a below par Liverpool side.
The first opportunity of the game came Liverpool's way when hesitation in the Sunderland defence allowing Nicole Rolser through on goal but her touch was just too heavy while taking the ball round Rachael Laws and had to lay the ball back for Ingrid Ryland to shoot wide.
This seemed to settle the Sunderland team down though and with Rachel Furness commanding in the midfield area, they stopped the home side from playing whilst looking dangerous themselves going forward.
Chances were scarce at either end in the opening 27 minutes before Sunderland opened the scoring. Brooke Chaplen released Keira Ramshaw on the right where she sent in a teasing cross which was misjudged by both Libby Stout and Gemma Bonner and the predatory Mead took full advantage, planting a firm header into the back of the net.
It was nearly two moments later as Furness unleashed a volley which dipped narrowly over and Sunderland were full value for their lead at half time while Liverpool were struggling to make any headway, threatening most with an angled effort from Asisat Oshoala which was off target.
Liverpool stepped up the pace at the start of the second half but Sunderland were standing firm at the back, with captain Steph Bannon and Hayley Sharp both having excellent games in the centre. One threatening cross by Ryland looked destined for Katie Zelem at the far post but she was thwarted by good defensive play from Abby Holmes.
Sunderland hit back with the impressive Furness exchanging passes with Ramshaw before bringing out an excellent save from Stout with a well struck shot.
At the other end, Liverpool had appeals for a penalty but Rolser had gone down too easily when challenged by Bannon and play was waved on. At this point, Furness was starting to struggle with the after effects of accidental clash of heads with Zelem during the first half and the midfielder was eventually forced to leave the pitch.
Another substitution saw the welcome sight of Lucy Staniforth returning to league action for the first time since May 2013, following a dreadful run of knee injuries which kept her out for nearly two years.
Oshoala had had a shot saved by Laws as Liverpool began to sense an equaliser and how it did not come in the 73rd minute is anybody's guess. Fara Williams floated a free kick into the area where Natasha Dowie rose highest but her header crashed against the underside of the bar. Sunderland could not get the ball away and it was returned back into the six yard area where Dowie hit the bar once again, this time with a glancing header, and somehow the ball bounced away to safety.
To compound Liverpool's misfortune, Sunderland went back on the attack and stunned the home side by doubling the lead. Sophie Williams' pass released Mead who raced away down the left and cut into the area, where she was floored by a challenge from Satara Murray and a penalty was awarded.
Mead had landed heavily on the 3G surface and had to momentarily leave the pitch with a bang on her nose and, bizarrely, Sunderland made a substitution before the penalty was taken. After a long wait to take the kick, Chaplen kept her cool and showed great composure to send Stout the wrong way and mark her debut for her new club with a goal.
Liverpool needed a quick response and it came just three minutes later. Fara Williams' corner was palmed away by Laws but only as far as Murray, who atoned for the penalty by drilling the ball into the back of the net to reduce the arrears.
The home side tried to set up a grandstand finish but just could not create another opportunity. Indeed it was Sunderland who almost made it three with a breakaway as Ramshaw and Kelly McDougall set up Sophie Williams who drove a left foot shot inches over from the edge of the area.
Fara Williams fired narrowly over from distance as the game went into injury time but there were no more scares for Sunderland who could celebrate a memorable victory for themselves and the perfect start to life in the top flight.
Liverpool: Libby Stout, Ingrid Ryland, Martha Harris (sub Maz Pacheco 88mins), Fara Williams, Gemma Bonner, Satara Murray, Katie Zelem (sub Line Smorsgard 79mins), Corina Schroder, Natasha Dowie, Asisat Oshoala (sub Lucy Staniforth 73mins), Nicole Rolser. Subs not used: Danielle Gibbons, Kate Longhurst, Becky Easton, Hannah Dale.
Sunderland: Rachael Laws, Abby Holmes, Victoria Williams, Rachel Furness (sub Sophie Williams 66mins), Steph Bannon, Hayley Sharp, Keira Ramshaw, Sarah McFadden, Beth Mead, Brooke Chaplen, Abbey Joice (sub Kelly McDougall 78mins). Subs not used: Alice Harkness, Vicky Greenwood, Natalie Gutteridge, Rebekah Bass, Emma Kelly.
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