Prenton Park was the setting for Liverpool Women’s latest run out in the WSL. The Reds faced Bristol City in the afternoon sun and with the help of a Rinsola Babajide hat-trick, won the fixture 5-2.
A thin squad but a strong team
Just four substitutes out of a possible seven were named on the bench by manager Vicky Jepson. Youngsters Annabel Blanchard and Missy Bo Kearns missed out due to an important cup final for the Academy team.
The most notable name on the sheet was Niamh Charles. Fans were thrilled to see her make her long anticipated return from injury.
Charles is a player Jepson had previously named “the most talented player she has ever coached”.Embed from Getty Images
Additionally, Charles signed a contract extension earlier in May – committing her long-term future to the Reds.
Despite the lack of numbers on the bench, it was a strong line-up. It saw Rinsola Babajide, Yana Danïels and Courtney Sweetman-Kirk leading the line.
Anke Preuss remained in goal whilst Leighanne Robe was shifted over to the right-back position with Jemma Purfield on the left.
An early goal to set the tone
It took just eleven minutes for England U20 starlet Babajide to capitalise on a stray ball and calmly slot it into the bottom corner of the net.
The chemistry between Sweetman-Kirk and Babajide was on show throughout the game. The two repeatedly caused goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley problems with their link-up play.
After a good spell of dominance from the Reds, Bristol City went off script and managed a goal. It could’ve arguably been labeled a cross from Danique Kerkdijk that made it 1-1 on the 36th minute.
In typical fashion for Babajide, it took just four minutes from the equalising goal for her to assertively reclaim the lead. The Reds now sat pretty at 2-1.Embed from Getty Images
Liverpool’s tails were clearly up after taking the lead again. Laura Coombs – who had an excellent game – pinged a lovely cross in towards Danïels in the box.
As a result of Coombs’ great creative play, the Belgium international nodded the cross home and claimed her first ever Liverpool goal.
Jepson led her side back down the tunnel with a smile whilst the scoreboard read 3-1 at the half-time break.
A composed second half
Bristol tried to add more attacking flair to their second half performance with the arrival of striker Ella Rutherford, taking the place of Flo Allen.
It seemed to settle the game slightly as Liverpool sat back and took more time on the ball.
Things started to heat up again for the Reds after goal scorer Danïels was replaced by the returning Charles.
Greeted by a special applause from the Liverpool fans, the young forward got quickly to work.
A hat-trick hero is born
Amy Rodgers worked hard to create some space for herself before finding the perfect through ball for Babajide, who made a run ahead of her marker.Embed from Getty Images
The 20-year-old attacker calmly slotted the ball home with her left boot after holding off the defender. With her third goal, she would be taking the match ball home.
Babajide’s performance will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most spirited witnessed at Prenton Park this season. Her resilience and determination shone at every opportunity she had on and off the ball.
A fitting conclusion
Ashley Hodson would continue her return to fitness. She replaced Scottish international Christie Murray on the 78th minute.
Hodson has been pushing to retain her starting position since recovering from an ACL injury that kept her out most of the current season.Embed from Getty Images
There was a little bit of panic in the Liverpool goal mouth as the minutes started winding down. A defensive scramble led to Niamh Fahey powering the ball into her own net past a helpless Preuss on the 83rd minute.
Leandra Little would be given another run out as Jepson looked to sure up the back-line in the final minutes. Sweetman-Kirk made way, taking a few minutes of well-earned rest.
The game had more life in it at the other end though. Some fantastic play from Coombs gave Hodson the opportunity to lob the ball over Baggaley on the cusp of full-time.
The ball found the empty net and was the final goal of the match to make it 5-2.
A strong position going forwardEmbed from Getty Images
This result means that Liverpool now sit just one point behind in-form FA Cup finalists West Ham.
With Yeovil Town being confirmed as relegated from the WSL, the pressure is now firmly off Liverpool. The Reds can enjoy their football and concentrate on climbing the table before the end of the season.
Their next match is away to Birmingham City Women at St. Andrews.