On Wednesday, Aston Villa’s Continental Cup journey began at Prenton Park as the team faced Championship side, Liverpool.
The tournament follows a new format this year. As usual, clubs are divided regionally into groups – three Northern and two Southern. The difference is that Champions League sides will receive a bye for the group stage and enter at the quarter-final stage. Following Manchester City’s failure to progress in the Champions League qualifiers, they have entered the Cup group stage. The winners of each group will progress to the quarter-finals, joining Arsenal and Chelsea, as well as the best-placed runner up.
Aston Villa was drawn into Group A, alongside Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield United, and Sunderland. As the only WSL side in this group, we should be looking to progress as winners. Liverpool provides the biggest threat, as they have started their league season strongly in their push for promotion.
Carla Ward made seven changes from the side that lost to Reading on Sunday, as Sian Rogers took over in goal and club captain Marisa Ewers led the midfield.
Villa set off with the perfect start. Before viewers or players could settle, Shania Hayles had driven down the right-wing and slotted the ball past Rylee Foster to open the scoring. Alisha Lehmann bagged herself another assist and aided Hayles to her first goal of the season.
The visitors remained on the front foot until injury struck and Marisa Ewers had to leave the field, replaced by Remi Allen. It was a disappointing sight as Ewers has only recently been rediscovering match fitness, following a previous injury.
Villa remained vigilant throughout the first half, despite Liverpool’s best efforts. Missy Bo Kearns was causing the most disruption, but fortunately, her best chance was off target. The opposition came close several times, with one dangerous moment saved by Elisha N’Dow’s headed clearance off the line.
Still ahead at the break, Villa were soon to be equalled by Matt Beard’s substitute Leanne Kiernan. With what was possibly her first touch of the game, Kiernan wrestled through Villa’s defence and managed to squeeze a shot past Rodgers at the near post.
The goal was overdue, after many attempts, it was fresh legs that made the difference for Liverpool. The final push from both sides was cancelled out, as both keepers proved their worth between the sticks. The final twenty minutes saw Liverpool pushing high and Villa had to work hard to remain level, but Sarah Mayling retaliated by getting away a shot of her own that spun into the hands of Foster.
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The game ended in a tie after 90 minutes, but a bonus point was up for grabs in a penalty shootout. Rylee Foster looked particularly confident heading to take her place in goal, having been named Liverpool’s Player of the Month earlier this year for two penalty saves in one match against Sheffield United.
Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah was the first to step up from the Villans, but her attempt from the spot could not get past Foster, despite having some lift on it. Remi Allen, Sarah Mayling, Jodie Hutton, and Romona Petzelberger all converted, but Liverpool’s five goals saw them come away with the win.
Villa left Prenton Park with a point and now look ahead to the next Conti Cup game against Sheffield United, on 17th November.
WSL | Chelsea (H) Banks Stadium | Saturday 6th November 2021
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Aston Villa vs Chelsea
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