Sunderland Women begin Continental League Cup campaign with narrow 1-0 defeat to Liverpool

Sunderland Women began their Continental League Cup campaign with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Liverpool at Eppleton in Group B.

Megan Campbell’s well-struck freekick mid-way through the first half secured victory for the Reds who were rarely troubled despite promising spells from the home side who were hoping to repeat last season’s Conti Cup encounter which they won on penalties.

Both Mel Reay and Matt Beard made changes to their line ups with eyes on their respective league campaigns, with the former naming a young XI to face the Super League outfit.

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This Liverpool were still a formidable opponent and quickly took control of the game in the opening few minutes when Katie Stengal rattled the bar with a left foot shot. Almost immediately they were behind the defence again, Yana Daniels denied by the onrushing Alison Cowling after racing onto Stengal’s deft pass.

Sunderland Women began their Continental League Cup campaign with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Liverpool at Eppleton in Group B. Chris Fryatt.

But Sunderland weathered the early storm and perhaps had the best chance of the opening exchanges. Emma Kelly’s cross was laid off to Jess Brown by Holly Manders in the area, but her left foot strike was well held by Eartha Cumings.

That was the best it got for the hosts, who harried and closed throughout, with Cowling the busier of the two goalkeepers from then on.

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First, she watched Emma Kovisto’s wild effort fly high over her goal before being called into action to parry Daniels’ powerful drive. When the ball did get past her, Brianna Westrup was in the right place to superbly block the follow up on the line.

Former Black Cat Rachel Furness was next to try her luck, heading a corner over the bar, as Liverpool increased the pressure which paid off after 22 minutes.

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Neve Herron, who was harshly sent off in the league fixture between the two teams last season, conceded a free kick on the edge of the area.

She could feel hard done by here too, as it looked as though she got a foot to the ball before clattering into Daniels. Facing five players in the wall in front of her, Campbell stepped up and smashed low across goal and gave Cowling no chance.

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After the break, the game followed the same pattern: Liverpool happy to keep possession and patiently wait for opportunities, while Sunderland looked to disrupt their rhythm and break quickly with pace.

It was on 60 minutes when the next chance arrived – Hannah Silcock meeting Missy Bo-Kearns’ dangerous free-kick but failing to keep her header down.

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They would hit the woodwork for a second time moments later when Lawley’s deflected strike hit the post with Daniels putting the rebound into the side netting.

As the game approached added time, Taylor Hinds and Furness failed to double the lead, firing high and wide, while Grace McCatty’s well timed tackle denied Stengal a certain goal.

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Looking back, Reay will feel her side acquitted themselves well against a very strong side and, as the competition is a low priority, it offered the freedom to give players valuable minutes and try a new formation and tactics – all of which will benefit them ahead of the visit to Crystal Palace in a fortnight.

Sunderland: Cowling; Griffiths, McCatty, Westrup, Mullen (Gears 40’); Kelly, Danielle Brown, Herron, Jessica Brown (Ede 61’), Manders (Joice 61’); Scarr.