Sunderland fight on after Liverpool draw

Beth Mead is brought down to win a penalty
Beth Mead is brought down to win a penalty
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We have got four more cup finals and for that we have to prepare properly.

BETH Mead vowed that Sunderland will give it everything in the remaining four league games after falling off the top of the Women’s Super League 1.

Saturday’s home draw with reigning champions Liverpool, which came thanks to a late leveller from Kelly McDougall in a frantic finale, moved the Lady Black Cats a point clear of Arsenal at the top.

The Gunners yesterday lost 3-2 at home to Manchester City, who are now right in the thick of the title race, but Chelsea returned to the top after a 4-0 win at home to Birmingham.

But the Lady Black Cats, now second, are still very much in the title race, with most teams having just four games left.

Sunderland have three away games to come - at Birmingham, Manchester City and Chelsea, with a single home game remaining, against Arsenal.

 “We see it (Saturday’s draw) as two points dropped,” said Mead.

 “That’s the standards we have set ourselves now – to come away from a game against Liverpool and be disappointed with a draw.

 “At the start of the season we would have snapped your hand off just to stay in the league, but now we want to win every game.

 “We have got four more cup finals and for that we have to prepare properly. We also need a bit of luck to help get us over the line.”

If Sunderland are to stay in the race, they could do with more help from the officials than they did at Eppleton CW on Saturday – and much greater protection for star striker Mead.

If anyone questions the physicality of the women’s game, they should have watched player after player go through Mead from behind, or bundle her unceremoniously to the ground.

A reluctance from the referee to brandish cards allowed a physical Liverpool side to get away with too much and go close to taking all three points.

The man in black did get one decision right – awarding the home side a spot-kick after 23 minutes when Mead was felled by Rebecca Easton.

Mead got up to slot neatly in the bottom corner.

Liverpool were dangerous though and Natasha Dowie fired wide from close range before equalising five minutes later with a shot over keeper Hilde Gunn Olsen from 25 yards.

Mead continued to torment the visiting defence, with Easton and Bonner - finally – booked for fouls, but it was the Reds who seized the advantage as Rosie White burst through one-on-one to fire past Olsen on 68 minutes.

There was controversy immediately before that goal, though, with the referee choosing not to penalise Liverpool for what looked like a clear back pass to keeper Libby Stoute.

As time ticked down the contest became increasing frantic and end to end, with Sunderland pressing had for an equaliser. And it came two minutes from time when Anny Holmes pulled the ball back and Kelly McDougall fired under the Reds keeper.

The visitors almost hit back with Lucy Staniforth hitting the post with a long-range free-kick, and Katrin Omardottir firing over the open goal.

There was also some desperate defending with Steph Bannon and Holmes both making fine blocks to deny the visitors.

Sunderland: Olsen, Holmes, Bannon, Williams, Greenwell, Ramshaw (Kelly 72), Furness, McDougall, Chaplen, Roche (Joice 64), Mead. Subs not used: Rachael Laws, Gemma Wilson, Sarah McFadden.

Liverpool: Stout, Harris, Bonner, Easton, Pacheco (Schroder 73), Omarsdottir, Staniforth, Hodson (Smorsgard 62), Longhurst, White, Dowie. Subs not used: Darbyshire, Ryland, Dale, Zelem, Green.

Att: 1,008 Ref: Graeme Fyvie