12th February 2022: Southampton hold on for the win versus Liverpool.
An almost all English side took to the court for the Aztecs. Divina Alo Ilolo was away at a family event, and Kath Heath had struggled through the last two training sessions with a knee injury. Kaylee Senter has left the club. This meant three new signings were handed their debuts in our first ever meeting with University of Liverpool, with those being Molly Sumner, Amy Maidment, and Laura Ingram.
With the previous game against Bolton now behind us, it was time to face new opponents in the form of University of Liverpool. Still early days, with teams feeling each other out, and unsure what to expect from their opponents. Some teams have changed a lot, some a little. Some teams trained a lot over the winter, some hardly any. Seven games, and each one feels like a six-pointer. That's why it's important to get off to a good start, and not keep conceding the first goal.
The Aztecs had the first chance of the game just a minute in. The Tonks sisters completing a series of wall passes, setting up a shot for Nicki Curtis, which was saved by the keeper down to her right. The Tonks sisters combined again, this time setting up Rebecca Moody, whose stretched effort was comfortably collected by Hannah Austin in the Liverpool goal.
It took three minutes for Liverpool to give Lauren Sayler her first test of the afternoon. Building well out the back, Liverpool got the ball out to Cat Moran on the right, whose shot from distance had to be tipped over the bar. It was four and a half minutes in when the Aztecs drew first blood. Only the second time in competitive play that Southampton had scored the first goal, and the first competitive goal for the team in the red shirts. Rebecca Moody took a kick-in on the left in the Southampton half, and played a great ball to Rebekah Tonks, who held up very well, while Kayleigh Tonk's deceptive run created space for her. Bekah laid the ball off to Kayleigh, whose disguised toe poke found the back of the net. A story we've witnessed play out many times, but will never tire of seeing.
Sixty seconds later and Kayleigh nearly made it two. Carrying the ball forward, she shot wide of the left post with her weaker left foot. Seeking the equaliser, Liverpool went up the other end and nearly scored. Camp found Lysons on the right, who slid a ball across goal to Slade at the far post, who somehow hit the inside of the post with an open goal, which was then cleared away by Kayleigh Tonks.
Only six minutes to go before half-time, and Liverpool had another huge chance go begging. Lysons played a kick-in to Slade, who wriggled free of Bekah Tonks and played the ball back to Lysons, who crossed from near to the goal. Ogden was arriving at the far post, but it was cut out by Moody. Slade pounced on the rebound, but Moody came to the rescue again. Liverpool were in the ascendency now. Slade forced a low diving save from Sayler with a mid-range shot on the left. And then the equaliser came. Sayler threw to Kayleigh Tonks, who played the ball back to Rebecca Moody. Liverpool's press was quicker than Southampton's movement, allowing Slade to rob her of the ball. Charging forward 1v1 with Sayler, Slade's low driven shot was too quick for Sayler to react to.
Liverpool nearly took the lead immediately. Slade breaking down the right, who laid the ball across goal to Camp, squeezing the ball past Moody and Kayleigh Tonks. With the goal begging, Camp's shot was hit wide of the near post. For those watching at home, they missed what happened next. As the replay was being shown, Sayler launched the ball forward. Lysons won the ball that was intended for Nicki Curtis. It fell to Kayleigh Tonks in her own half on the right, who played an expert diagonal ball to debutant Molly Sumner. The seventeen year old entered the D to meet the flight of the ball, nutmegging Austin with a side foot tapped volley. Molly is the only Aztecs player whose shirt number is higher than her age.
Liverpool attempted to level the score before half-time. Lysons stole the ball from Curtis, broke forward, and Lauren Sayler rushed out of the area to make a save with the feet. Moments later, Brooks and Slade were in a 2v1 against debutant Laura Ingram, who jockeyed well to buy time for the recovery. Ingram blocked the first shot, Sayler blocked the rebound, and then Ingram coolly played a pass to Curtis just three yards in front of goal, with the keeper down, being pressed by two Liverpool players.
Then came what would have been the best goal Aztecs have ever scored. It was so good, that it would likely have came second if it were featured in a poll on Twitter. Ingram took a kick-in on the right, near the halfway line, playing it back to Kayleigh Tonks. K. Tonks shifted the ball left to Sayler, who was now in the Liverpool half. Sayler played to B. Tonks who came deep from the edge of the D to receive with her back to goal. She played back to Sayler, who, under pressure, slid the ball back to K. Tonks, who was now acting like a quarterback. A direct pass through the middle to Broughton, whose movement was into the same spot B. Tonks was in moments earlier, showing how great the rotation was between the forward players. Broughton passed it to the right wing with a great one touch pass, setting up Ingram to approach the D. Liverpool tried to recover, the keeper came flying out to prevent Ingram from scoring, but she coolly (again) slotted in Broughton who made contact with the ball two yards out. Inexplicably, the ball hit the wrong part of her foot, and span up over the crossbar. It was pure art, and with much beauty in the world, there is also much tragedy.
It was all to play for in the second half. Southampton scored first again, taking it to 3-1. Sayler threw to Kayleigh Tonks down the right. Camp recovered well and put in a great tackle, but the ball fell to K. Tonks again. Now with Camp on the floor, throwing legs in vain attempts to nudge the ball away from Kayleigh, Brooks came across to recover, creating space to play the ball to sister Bekah, who toe poked it home beyond the onrushing Austin.
The Aztecs came forward again. Bekah playing through Kayleigh, with the first attempt being poked away by Lysons, and the rebound being hit wide by K. Tonks as Austin made herself big to block the shot. From the resulting keeper throw, Liverpool ended up playing back to their keeper without the ball touching an opponent. The Aztecs were awarded an indirect free-kick on the edge of the D. While the referee marked the distance, both Tonks, Moody, and Ingram were deep in discussion. Ingram broke off right, later revealed to be a decoy, while the other three stood over the ball. Bekah Tonks performed a sole role, Ingram ran around the back, Kayleigh Tonks shaped up to shoot, but it was Moody who smashed it into the net to make it 4-1.
It was going well. But apparently too well. Liverpool struck again to make it 4-2, closing the gap. Southampton were caught in possession, wide open, allowing Ogden to slide in Slade, who fired home past the onrushing Sayler. Still thirteen minutes to go, and the game was not yet decided.
Southampton had chances to go further ahead. Ingram played a great through ball to Kayleigh Tonks who shot wide. Ingram also set up Bekah Tonks, whose shot was easily collected by Austin. Ingram then stole Austin's roll out, and had her shot blocked. Then Liverpool made it 4-3. Ogden and Slade playing around Broughton and Ingram, before Slade fired the ball off the far post to close the gap to one goal. Eleven minutes remaining. It was going to be tight.
Bekah Tonks replied for Southampton, with her shot coming back out off the post. Bekah Tonks then caused panic when she brought down Sayler's throw in the Liverpool D, having to be swarmed by three Liverpool players to prevent her getting a shot away. Ingram had two cracks at goal. The first being saved, with the rebound coming to Ingram who played a one-two with R. Tonks, who laid it off to Ingram for the second shot, which went wide of the far post. Southampton were still knocking on that door. K. Tonks played to Curtis, who held up well, and used great skill to setup R. Tonks for a shot, which was saved by Austin. Then Curtis nearly scored, receiving a cross from K. Tonks, only to fluff the initial shot, then poked it back to K. Tonks, whose shot from a tight angle was blocked on the line by Camp.
Two minutes remaining and Liverpool had a good chance to get the equaliser. Camp laid off Slade, who shot high and central. The hard shot was parried vertically by Sayler, and then caught when it came down. Liverpool's last chance of the game came with twenty-five seconds on the clock, when Slade laid off well to Lysons, whose low shot was held by Sayler.
And then it was full-time. The Aztecs held on for the win. It was tight, probably more so than it needed to be. The Aztecs subs stopped coming, as the decision was made to stick with the more experienced players. Curtis, Moody, and the Tonks sisters were favoured to see out the game, instead of subbing more frequently to keep legs fresh. The four players on the bench; Broughton, Maidment, Sumner, and Ingram only had two NFS games between them, and they both belonged to Broughton. Great attacking talent, and players that provide a lot of value for the team. It's always a gamble, and this one came off. The Reds were good value for the win, and had shown a lot of growth since the Bolton game.
With some rearrangements in the schedule, the Aztecs will next take the court on March the 12th against London Helvecia at the Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre in Preston. Things didn't go well last time, when the Aztec noobs lost their first competitive match 15-2 to the eventual Southern Champions. This will be a real litmus test of how much progress this team has made.
Rebecca Moody was voted player of the match. Moody scored what turned out to be the winning goal from a well worked free-kick routine. She also contributed a second assist for the first goal with a well taken kick-in. Solid as a rock defensively like always, and a leader for the team on the court.
Enjoy the highlights from our first competitive win in red!
View the whole match below (game starts just after two hours into the feed).
The scores from the day of games.
Birmingham WLV 3 v 6 London Helvecia
Southampton Aztecs 4 v 3 University of Liverpool
Manchester 8 v 2 Bloomsbury
Bolton 6 v 1 Worcester
Below is the table after the second game day. The Aztecs move up to fifth place. We'll see you again in a month!
Enjoy photos from the game below!