leeds ladies won’t lose heart after last minute defeatBack
Leeds Ladies’ three game unbeaten run came to a cruel end on Sunday, when a last minute winner stole the game for Liverpool Marshalls Feds.
The game started with Leeds in fourth place and Liverpool one place above them in third, and a late, deflected strike settled a game in favour of the visitors that, if it had continued as it began, Leeds should have won easily, as Martin Chadwick describes at RITGK.
Instead Leeds were left to regret letting first three points and then one slip away, a feeling captain Emma Bentley says she’s determined not to experience too often.
“It was tough,” she says. "I did have some time when I got home where I felt really down.
"In a twisted sort of way, that is what is so special about football – one minute you can be on top of the world and the next it’s like you have the whole world on your shoulders. But it’s those times when you have to grab that feeling and make sure that you try not to let it happen too often.
“When I think about everybody that gives up their time week in, week out – from the coaches, the manager, and the parents, to our supporters and the little ones, the little mascots – I hate losing as much for them as I do for the team and for me personally. It’s all of that that makes me not want to lose often!”
Leeds were the much better team in the opening stages, and proved themselves more than a match for a Liverpool side that has now won five in a row. Carey Huegett opened the scoring after ten minutes, making the most of a loose punch from the Liverpool keeper by getting to the ball first and flicking it into the air, before volleying home from the edge of the box. Liverpool struggled to deal with Huegett all game and she nearly scored another in the second half when she again caught the keeper off her line; this time her long range chip found the crossbar.
“Technically, Kez is one of the best female footballers I have ever seen,” says Emma. “The things she can do with a ball never ever fail to amaze me. She can turn on a sixpence, skip through defenders like they’re not even there and take two, three or four people out of the game with one deft touch. She has a great footballing brain too, Kez always seems one step ahead of the play. I used to love playing up front with Kez because it is almost as if she can read my mind – I can make a run and set off that split second early to beat the defender because I just know that Kez will have read the play to make the pass for me. She really is a special player and somebody who can turn a game on its head at any moment – and she also now owes me a fiver!”
Liverpool grabbed a controversial equaliser against the run of play in the 19th minute with a goal that left Leeds calling for handball – the referee claimed it was ball to hand, ignoring the way the ball then went from that hand to leave Liverpool in a perfect position to score.
Leeds still looked comfortable, but the game began to turn on the half hour when midfielder Jemma White left the field injured, and a touch of the control Leeds had enjoyed up to then left with her. The game became a midfield scrap and Leeds struggled to get the ball wide to their free-scoring wingers Hannah Campbell and Shelbey Morris, who was also subbed due to injury early in the second half.
“Losing Jemma was a big blow,” says Emma. “She consistently dominates in midfield and opposing teams can’t deal with her creative, clever play. The midfield battle was a key factor and we needed to exploit the space out wide rather than get caught in the nitty gritty in the middle.”
Neither side was able to play their way out of the midfield stalemate in a frustrating second half, and neither side could break through the other’s defence; Leeds’ player of the match was central defender Bridie Hannon, and no doubt Liverpool will have been pleased with their own back four. A point, while disappointing after the bright start, began to look like a decent result – until Liverpool snatched all three at the very end.
"We try to be positive but I think that’s what hurts a lot about Sunday – the final scoreline did not reflect the game, and we deserved so much more. We didn’t deserve to concede either goal.
“The second goal was heartbreaking. A pinball around the area which comes off one of their feet, takes a deflection and ends up in our goal in the 90th minute – after we had played so well, it was really hard to take.”
It seemed like an age between the ball hitting the back of the net and the game restarting, an age during which Liverpool showed just what beating Leeds meant to them – piling up in a heap of players, as the manager celebrated on the pitch – and during which Emma showed just what losing this game meant to Leeds, kneeling on the ground in the penalty area, unable to look at the Liverpool celebrations.
“I was totally gutted in that moment on the ground,” says Emma. "A million thoughts go through your head all at once. How did we let that happen? What could we have done differently? Was there something more I could have done? We’ve let the supporters down. It really isn’t a nice place to be, on the grass, on your knees, in the 90th minute, knowing that the game has just been lost to a hopeful shot that has deflected into the goal.
"But there was also that glimmer, the thought that made me get back up, the one that said – there must be a minute or so of injury time, and it only takes a second to score a goal. So despite all that pain you have to get back up, and you have to go again, until there is no time left to pull it back.
"I am a believer that you learn even when you lose. You learn to get back up and go again. One of the biggest tests in sport is to bear defeat without losing heart and I guess that’s how we have to look at the game.
“We lost but we can’t afford to lose heart. There is a massive game coming up in a matter of days and we have to be ready mentally as well as physically.”
That massive game is the return match this Thursday night against Guiseley Vixens, whose 6–3 win at Leeds earlier in the season did not come easily. They are up to third in Northern Division One after a 5–3 win over Morecombe, who are the next visitors to Leeds Ladies’ Manse Lane ground in Knaresborough this Sunday at 2pm – entry is £2 for adults and £1 for kids. Follow Leeds Ladies FC and the LLFC Supporters Club on Twitter for updates.