Aston Villa 1-4 Liverpool: Koivisto stars as Liverpool crush Villa hopes of top six

Victorious in only one of their six home Barclays Women’s Super League matches at the Poundland Bescot Stadium and Villa Park this season, Carla Ward recalled Kenza Dali to the Aston Villa starting eleven in the continued absence of suspended top-scorer Rachel Daly and Adriana Leon, who is still away on international duty with Canada at the CONCACAF W Gold Cup.

Meanwhile, knowing a victory would surpass last season’s tally of 23 points, Liverpool headed into the game without their match-winner against Brighton & Hove Albion, as Ceri Holland was forced to sit out Sunday afternoon’s contest after receiving a straight red card deep in stoppage-time last weekend.

AVL: Van Domselaar; Mayling, Patten, Maritz, Pacheco; Corsie, Nobbs, Dali; Hanson, Magill, Lehmann

LIV: Laws; Fisk, Fahey, Bonner; Matthews, Nagano, Höbinger, Lundgaard, Koivisto; Haug, Enderby

Undefeated in their last three fixtures in all competitions, Liverpool started on the front foot at the Poundland Bescot Stadium, as only several last-ditch defensive interceptions, following Marie Höbinger’s finely-floated free-kick into the danger area, denied the Reds the game’s opening goal.

The visitors’ early pressure did pay dividends in the 19th minute, as Grace Fisk clinically made her way up from the back to fire a heavily deflected effort from close range past the helpless figure of Daphne van Domselaar.

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Despite going behind under fortuitous circumstances, Villa responded almost immediately from the restart as Kenza Dali fired two quick-fire efforts straight at Rachael Laws. However, it did not take Liverpool long to double their advantage as Sophie Román Haug capitalised on an uncustomary mistake from van Domselaar via Fuka Nagano’s cross – that left the Norwegian international with the simple task of firing into an unguarded net.

Carla Ward’s side would eventually be rewarded for their determination to get back into the game before half-time in the 37th minute as Sarah Mayling confidently converted from the penalty spot – despite Laws guessing the right way – after Gemma Bonner’s challenge had brought an end to Kirsty Hanson’s lung-busting run forward into the area.

On the losing side in only one of their last five Barclays Women’s Super League matches, Villa really should have levelled not long after the restart, however, Anna Patten got the ball tied to her boots at the crucial time right in front of goal. Ruthlessly, Liverpool made the hosts pay for that miss on the stroke of the hour-mark as marauding-forward full-back Emma Koivisto rifled the ball home past van Domselaar from her flying trajectory towards the far stick.

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Koivisto then added a fourth for Liverpool, and a second goal for herself in the 82nd minute on an enterprising afternoon in Walsall courtesy of an expertly-timed header. The one-sided victory moves the Reds to within two points of Manchester United in fourth, while the defeat sees Villa remain in eighth position – however Ward’s side are still 10 points above bottom-placed side Bristol City.