(Pociunaite 25, Watson 26; Sampson 14, 36, Nieznana 14, Saunders 19, Potter 20, Cann 29)
An inexperienced Manchester Futsal Women’s Club team slipped to only their second league defeat of the season against local rivals Liverbird Futsal Club on Saturday.
Stand-in captain Meida Pociunaite and Siobhan Watson got onto the scoresheet for Abdallah Mohamed’s side, but Liverbirds had already taken a 3-0 lead by half-time and wrapped up the three points with a strong showing, albeit a slightly flattering scoreline.
Lining up on home soil at the Trafford Soccerdome for the first time this season, Manchester were missing several key names and had to field goalkeeper Bruna Fontes as an outfield player to be able to make up seven players.
But it meant the likes of Kirsty Allen, Aggy Janczuk and Ilona Miterkova were handed a chance to impress and, in all fairness, they fared excellently against some tough opposition.
The opening 10 minutes were fairly even; teenager Watson was looking sharp in front of goal and saw several early shots blocked, while Barbara Nieznana was busy for Liverbirds.
Janczuk’s long-range effort fizzed just wide, but Liverbirds then began to turn up the heat and call Ana Marques into action.
Manchester’s ‘keeper made several saves from Debbie Hancock, while the Liverbirds pivot also rattled the crossbar with a stinging shot.
It wasn’t long before the visitors took the lead through Keri Sampson, who guided a low left-sided pass from Hancock into the bottom corner, and they doubled their advantage moments later as Nieznana headed home.
Manchester did threaten on the counter-attack as both Marques and Pociunaite initiated attacks with long passes up to Watson, but she couldn’t find the net with her efforts.
And though Marques was in stunning form, somehow stopping another goalbound Nieznana header, she couldn’t prevent Liverbirds from adding a third shortly before half-time though a close-range effort by Shell Saunders.
It was four just seconds after the restart, Georgie Potter netting just seconds after Pociunaite had fired wide at the other end.
A double Marques save from Hancock and Nieznana seemed to spark a resurgence as Manchester then pulled two back in the space of a minute.
Another Pociunate shot initially looked like it had been well-caught by Liverbird ‘keeper Sharon Simpson, but she fumbled it into her own net to tarnish her side’s clean sheet.
And Watson then got a well-deserved goal with a thumping angled effort.
With just under 15 minutes to go, Liverbirds continued to look dangerous; Marques keeping out two shots by Anne-Marie Atherton and Saunders missing a simple chance from a few yards out.
The visitors then added to their lead after a goalmouth scramble saw Helen Cann direct a low shot at goal, which took an unfortunate touch off Janczuk before it crossed the line.
And although Watson continued to work hard at the other end of the pitch, Liverbirds restored their four-goal advantage with four minutes left through Sampson, whose opening shot was saved by Marques but the rebound bundled home.
During the final stages of the match, Manchester demonstrated a really well-worked team move involving Watson, Miterkova and Pociunaite, which ended with one shot blocked and another rolling narrowly wide.
It was an example of why Mohamed, though disappointed in the defeat, was pleased with his players and their efforts.
On another day, with a full-strength team, we could well have taken the game to Liverbirds, yet those who were involved last week showed that there are some talented players in the squad who are still learning and still gelling – but who can continue to grow with the club and make Manchester a force to be reckoned with.
Manchester: Meida Pociunaite (c), Ana Marques (GK), Kirsty Allen, Agnieszka Janczuk, Siobhan Watson, Ilona Miterkova, Bruna Fontes
Liverbird: Sharon Simpson (GK), Barbara Nieznana, Helen Cann, Dawn Kehoe, Shell Saunders, Keri Sampson, Georgie Potter, Ann-Marie Atherton, Debbie Hancock