Linfield Ladies retain League Cup.
Linfield Ladies retained the NIFL Women’s League Cup with a 4-1 victory over Cliftonville at Seaview on Friday evening.
Cliftonville started the game on the front foot as Marissa Callaghan saw her corner only half cleared by the Linfield defence on three minutes before the ball fell back to her but she could only hit her effort wide of goal.
It was the Reds who came close again on eleven minutes as Chloe Orr attempted to play in Leah McEvoy, but she was beaten to the ball by the onrushing Lauren Perry in the Blues goal to rescue her side from going a goal down.
Linfield were awarded a penalty on 19 minutes as the referee adjudged a Reds defender to have handballed following a corner up stepped the ever-reliable Kirsty McGuinness to fire the ball into the net despite Cliftonville keeper Caoimhe Callaghan guessing the right way.
The Blues created another fine opportunity on 27 minutes when Lauren Robson beat Orr to the ball on the left wing only to see her pass into striker Louise McDaniel well cut out by Billie Simpson at the heart of the Reds defence.
It should have been two on 31 minutes as Robson played a neat pass to Chloe McCarron before she played a fabulous ball to McDaniel on the right she crossed to the back post for McGuinness, but she somehow fired her effort wide from four yards out.
Cliftonville however equalised on 35 minutes as Orr ran on to a long pass before her cross-cum-shot looped over the despairing dive of Perry and into the net.
The Blues responded well and could have immediately retaken the lead as Megan Bell played in McGuinness, but she was denied by a superb reaction save from Callaghan springing across her goal like a cat to keep her side level.
Phil Lewis however did see his side regain the lead on 42 minutes as the impressive McDaniel was played through on goal before rounding Callaghan in the Reds goal before planting the ball into the empty net despite Megan Moran’s best efforts to clear it off the line as she slid across the line.
Cliftonville had a chance to go in level at the break as on the stroke of half-time Amber Dempster flicked the ball over the head of Chelsea Myles in the Linfield defence but she was denied by a vital last gasp interception from Robson who safely guided the ball back into the hands of Perry.
Linfield made it 3-1 in the first minute of the second half as McGuinness beat Moran out on the right before her cross picked out the head of Robson perfectly and she headed the ball into the net despite Callaghan getting a touch on the ball.
The Blues were in cruise control by this stage and they nearly had a fourth as McCarron who was linking all the play for her side danced her way past the Reds defence before her shot from the edge of the area was fired straight into the arms of Callaghan on 54 minutes.
McGuinness should have had her second on 63 minutes as McCarron played in yet another sensational defence splitting pass, but she fired her effort wide of goal when well placed to score.
It was 4-1 on 74 minutes after the game fell flat for a period of team once again McCarron at the heart of the move as she linked up with Bell before her low effort took a deflection of Megan Weatherall before sailing past Callaghan as she rushed out to block the initial effort.
Cliftonville then created a good opportunity as Callaghan raced down the wing to cross for Joana Da Silva but the substitute couldn’t get a clean connection on the header as the ball bounced over Perry’s bar.
Bell then nearly put the cherry on top of the cake on 83 minutes as she raced away from Shannon Grattan, but her effort was well saved down low by the fine reactions of Callaghan.
The final piece of action in the game saw Bell create another good chance as she beat the static Reds defence, but she fired her effort over the crossbar from just inside the area.