A tense penalty shoot-out resulted in a landmark win for the Reds in the Continental Cup on Wednesday. Fran Kitching and Courtney Sweetman-Kirk delivered stand-out performances to contribute to the victory.
Reading hosted Liverpool for the second successive time as the stage was set for a vital Continental Cup clash. Liverpool Women had sat bottom of their group on two points but with an important game in hand against leaders Manchester United.
Fran Kitching was handed a start between the sticks in a bid to continue her strong form from earlier in the season.
LFC Transfer Room spoke to ‘keeper Kitching late last month in an exclusive interview. She stated: “I think I’m doing well at pushing for the shirt and putting pressure on Anke [Preuss] in training.”
Kitching followed up: “If I’m training to the best of my ability then the decision is in the manager’s hands and I’ve done all I can.” Liverpool boss Vicky Jepson has obviously taken note of the 20-year-old’s form on and off the pitch.
There was also a return to the line-up for former captain Leandra Little who impressed against Bristol City. Belgium international Yana Danïels also returned to the team, starting up front for a chance to impress.
A competitive game
Reading looked the stronger side during the first half but Liverpool defended comfortably, with Little pulling out several key interceptions and looking very much like the player she was at Doncaster.
Danïels showcased her pace and trickery as she forced a clever free-kick in the 24th minute. The only significant chance from Liverpool was from Christie Murray who saw her shot dip just a little late as it stroked the top of the Reading net on its way out for a goal-kick.
There was a change in dynamic as the team rolled out for the next 45.’ Jepson looked to add some flair from out wide to create chances for Sweetman-Kirk. Jess Clarke replaced Kirsty Linnett, who hadn’t had the game she’d hoped for.
Fara Williams tried to recreate her form from the last meeting, seeing her clever effort clatter the crossbar. The cup fixture feeling was now in full swing as the pace changed to a more attacking style with both teams going for the win.
Kitching made yet another vital stop, this time denying Natasha Harding. She tipped the shot out for a corner with Leighanne Robe then confidently clearing any threat from the set-piece.
There was another change for the Reds as Niamh Fahey replaced Laura Coombs in the 61st minute.
Reading were the first to convert their efforts in front of goal. Rachel Furness capitalised on her chance and buried the strike. The Royals couldn’t celebrate for long, though, as Sweetman-Kirk pulled the game back into Liverpool’s grasp just two minutes later.
CSK composed herself to find a tidy finish from just inside the Reading area in the 65th minute.
Lauren Thomas came on as a late substitution, replacing the in-form Sweetman-Kirk. The No.9 has now scored three in her last two appearances.
A dramatic ending
The match ended 1-1 with both teams securing a point each. It was then down to either side to claim the bonus point from the ensuing penalty shoot-out.
Clarke and Christie Murray buried their penalties as it sat at 2-2. Remi Allen had a chance to put Reading back in front but Kitching did well to parry the attempt, putting the advantage firmly in Liverpool’s camp.
Amy Rodgers and Danïels both slotted their penalties home leaving the shoot-out at 4-4 with an advantage to play. Inspirational captain Sophie Bradley-Auckland was up next to put the game to bed. The captain made no mistake and netted her shot, leaving Rachael Laws with no chance to claw Reading back into it.
A poignant victory for Liverpool as the skipper scored the goal to wrap it all up. The Reds have risen up the table and are now in third, just two points below the progression zone. Reading are sitting pretty at the top of the group.
Liverpool’s next fixture will be another Continental Cup clash, this time against Everton. The initial match was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch and will now take place on 16 December at 12:00 GMT at Prenton Park. Tickets are available from £2.50.
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