Goals from the midfield duo Lia Wälti and Frida Maanum helped to take unbeaten Arsenal past Liverpool and back to the summit of the Women’s Super League – albeit with Manchester United kicking off later in the day.
This could have been a banana-skin game for Arsenal, sandwiched between two tricky Champions League group-stage fixtures, the first of which was a trip to the reigning champions Lyon. Matt Beard’s Liverpool side had stunned Chelsea on the opening weekend of the season, with two Katie Stengel penalties cancelling out Fran Kirby’s spot-kick in the third minute.
The hope then, was that a bruised or exhausted Arsenal – a side also missing their first choice centre-back pairing of Leah Williamson and Rafaelle Souza – would await them at Prenton Park. Instead, they met an Arsenal side flying high, with Jonas Eidevall’s team having come away with a 5-1 defeat of Lyon, the French side’s biggest losing margin since 2006.
Liverpool’s hopes of reversing their league fortunes against the Gunners were quashed quickly. An unchanged Gunners, with the Norwegian midfielder Maanum keeping her place ahead of the Dutch record goalscorer Vivianne Miedema, were as slick on Merseyside as they were in France.
Beard had made two changes to the team that lost 1-0 away at Tottenham, the midfielders Missy Bo Kearns and Rachel Furness dropped to the bench and Ceri Holland and Meg Campbell started in their place.
After the shock victory over the champions Chelsea on the opening day, a worrying 3-0 home defeat against the derby rivals Everton followed, before the loss to Spurs last week.
It took 15 minutes for the Gunners to unpick the Liverpool defence, a corner was cleared by Niamh Fahey but it fell neatly for the defensive midfielder Wälti to the right of the box and and she powered it into the far corner.
Arsenal had won their past 28 games after scoring first and it seemed like that run would continue.
The home team were not without chances, but they struggled to make things count in the final third and setting up with a back three left them vulnerable out wide.
Six minutes after Wälti’s goal, Maanum doubled Arsenal’s lead. Caitlin Foord found space down the left and slipped in the Norwegian who breezed past Gilly Flaherty before firing past the goalkeeper Rachel Laws and in at the far post.
In the second half there was a shift at the back for the home side, with four lined up at the back to help stem the Arsenal flow down the wings. It was effective. Liverpool embarked on their best – albeit short – spell of the 90 minutes, but they could not make the most of it, with Emma Koivisto and Stengel both having chances to pull a goal back.
Instead, Arsenal retook control and although they were unable to extend their lead, and increase the team’s goal difference further, it was a comfortable win in a potentially tough run of games.