Here at The Sportist, we’re a big fan of the underdog. So when it comes to the biggest match of the year between perennial table propper-uppers and a club that survives through partnership with an education academy, you could understand if we were slightly conflicted.
The FA WSL
With pre-season favourites Arsenal and usual contenders Birmingham and Everton all falling out of contention, the title race came down to a no-holds-barred, winner-takes-all clash between Liverpool and Bristol Academy on Sunday. The equations were simple – a Bristol victory would see the FA WSL title taken by the West Country side. Anything else would cap a remarkable turnaround for a Liverpool side that has enjoyed handsome investment from club owners Fenway Sports Group.
In the end, it was a comfortable evening for the home side. Buoyed by goals from Louise Fors, Nicole Rolser and – notably – Natasha Dowie throughout the season, it was fitting that two of the Reds’ star trio should combine to set Liverpool on their way in the first half. A relatively unheralded signing, Rolser has been a revelation for Matt Beard’s team since the opening game of the season and it was her tricky pickup and run on the edge of the box which drew the foul from Alex Windell. Fors stepped up to the spot and drove home her 9th goal in Liverpool colours, just beating Siobhan Chamberlain’s outstretched arm.
1-0 at half time, Liverpool might honestly have had the game out of sight, so dominant were they and the home team might have been kicking themselves early in the first half had Laura Del Rio connected properly with the goal gaping. As the second half wore on, Liverpool strengthened their grip and title celebrations began in earnest when Katrin Omarsdottir met Natasha Dowie’s clever knock down to put the title out of Bristol’s sights.
In so many ways, this was the final match up that this season deserved. Two clubs, operating in very different ways, that spotted a chink in the previously impenetrable Arsenal armour and went hell-for-leather to capitalise. Both invested well, Liverpool with a blend of established WSL talent (Dowie, Fara Williams) and international youth (Fors, Rolser); Bristol with arguably the signing of the season, the women’s game’s Michu, Natalia.
Where did Liverpool win the title? Incontestably, their work in dismantling the reigning champions Arsenal on their home ground, 4-0, back in May served as a notice of intent. Even moreso, though, in recovering from a 3-0 reverse in the return fixture to turn in a breathless set of results in the 2nd half of the season which took them to the brink of the title before last weekend.
We’ll be reviewing the season in full in next week’s blog. For now, there’s one thing left.
The Continental Cup
After Friday, Lincoln Ladies will cease to exist. It will re-emerge next year as Notts County Ladies, taking with it one of the proudest names in recent women’s football. Before that, though, the club has the chance to write one final line in its history with a Continental Cup final against Arsenal.
The game kicks off at 7.30pm on Friday evening. Tickets available here.
One More Thing
As some of you will no doubt have read, reports emerged yesterday that Manchester Utd are considering re-establishing a women’s team, 8 years after they mothballed its previous incarnation. Until anything happens, this is, of course, no news at all. But the very fact that it’s apparently under consideration is emphatically A GOOD THING. Watch this space.
Image from bbc.co.uk – Thanks!