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Liverpool 2 (Oshoala 45, Williams 72) Birmingham City 1 (Mannion 81)
Asisat Oshoala scored a sublime first goal in a red shirt as she inspired Liverpool to their first win of the season, after a 2-1 victory over Birmingham at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes on Wednesday night.
Going into the game Beard made three changes to his side following the 2-1 defeat by Sunderland last week. The boss handed a first start in the WSL to close season recruit Line Smorsgard, and there were recalls for Becky Easton and Kate Longhurst. Birmingham manager Dave Parker meanwhile handed a full WSL debut to Charlie Wellings in place of the suspended Freda Ayisi.
The away side made a bright start and in the opening minute Emily Westwood found herself running clear on goal, but Satara Murray showed just why she will be an astute capture by Beard this season when she quickly closed down the space and blocked out the striker. Then at the other end Oshoala found space just outside the box but her resulting effort was well held by Becky Spencer.
On 13 minutes a superb pass from Longhurst released Smorsgard in space, but instead of hitting the ball first time towards goal, the striker was caught in two minds and was closed down.
Oshoala was having a very influential game in the middle of the park and one superb run saw her glide past three defenders before being taken down just outside the box. From the resulting free kick Williams curled the effort just wide.
On 18 minutes a superb ball over the top from Natasha Dowie released Oshoala who unselfishly tried to lay the ball across goal to the unmarked Smorsgard, but unfortunately the pass carried too much weight on it as it sailed wide of the target.
Beard's side were playing some excellent football but just couldn't find that breakthrough to make their pressure count and there was always the danger of Birmingham on the counter attack. One such break down the right from Alex Windell almost produced a goal. Her cross fell invitingly to Remi Allen, but off balance she could only fire high and wide.
On 31 minutes Liverpool had the ball in the net but Longhurst's joy turned to despair when Oshoala was penalised for pushing in the penalty area. Three minutes later a superb run down the right from Martha Harris found Dowie whose right wing cross flew just past the upright, and Oshoala was just off target with a superb effort that flashed just past the post.
In first half stoppage time came the breakthrough. A superb cross from Gemma Bonner from the right found Oshoala who found the net with a sweet volley.
Just past the hour mark Birmingham had a glorious chance when Melissa Lawley's cross fell invitingly for Westwood who took her eye off the ball at the vital time and narrowly missed the ball.
The heavy rain wasn't making conditions ideal to say the least, but Beard's side got the vital second goal they deserved on 70 minutes when Williams converted after a superb run and cross down the right from Oshoala.
With nine minutes remaining the away side got a lifeline when a mix-up in the defence allowed Aoife Mannion to step in and give themselves hope.
However, Beard's side held out for the victory as the defending champions showed they will not be giving up their title without a fight.
The game ended with Longhurst being carried off on a stretcher after a challenge from Allen that earned the Birmingham player a booking.
Liverpool: Libby Stout, Martha Harris, Becky Easton, Gemma Bonner, Satara Murray, Corina Schroder, Fara Williams, Kate Longhurst (sub Hannah Dale 90mins), Asisat Oshoala (sub Lucy Staniforth 89mins), Line Smorsgard (sub Nicole Rolser 68mins), Natasha Dowie. Subs not used: Rachel Darbyshire, Ingrid Ryland, Beth Donoghue, Maz Pacheco.
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Alex Windell (sub Meaghan Sargeant 88mins), Jess Carter, Aoife Mannion, Kerys Harrop, Remi Allen, Jo Potter, Jade Moore, Charlie Wellings, Melissa Lawley, Emily Westwood. Subs not used: Sian Rogers, Kirsty Linnett, Emily Simpkins, Coral-Jade Haines, Abbey Leigh Stringer, Cristina Torkildsen.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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