Brooke Chaplen scored an incisive brace as Sunderland Ladies clawed back a two goal deficit to earn a valuable point against Liverpool in the FAWSL1.
An unfortunate own goal from Megan Beer handed Liverpool an early lead before Laura Coombs doubled their advantage to give the Reds a commanding lead after just 23 minutes at the Select Security Stadium.
But Brooke Chaplen had other ideas, and gave the Lady Black Cats hope in the 31st minute when she headed home to halve the lead.
Chances were few and far between, but Chaplen’s close range finish just after the hour mark ensured the points were shared as Sunderland showed the great fighting spirit to draw level.
Carlton Fairweather rang the changes ahead of kick-off and brought in Hilde Gunn Olsen, Hayley Sharp and Stephanie Roche to the starting XI after last weekend’s heavy cup defeat to Arsenal.
Victoria Williams, injured in the warm-up, meant that Development Team defender Beer started in defence.
With the focus now on league safety, the Lady Black Cats knew a reaction was imperative as they looked to rekindle the same confidence that oozed from the last term.
Sunderland were regimented, disciplined, and held an excellent shape in the opening exchanges as the hosts were forced to feed on scraps.
The visitors dogged approach then saw Beth Mead almost catch the Siobhan Chamberlain unaware as she unleashed an ambitious volley from 25 yards out.
Mead’s dipping effort looked to have caught England’s No.1 off her line but Chamberlain managed to get back in time to get a fingertip on the ball and force it behind for a corner.
But just as the Lady Black Cats looked to be finding their groove, Shanice van de Sanden got in behind Kylla Sjoman as Liverpool went for a more direct approach.
The Dutch winger struck the outside of the post and the ball fell to the feet of Weir who tapped the ball goalwards and it deflected off a helpless Beer and into the net.
Six minutes later Liverpool doubled their lead as van de Sanden squared to Coombs, whose inventive flick trickled into the net.
Sunderland continued to huff and puff and then managed to get themselves back into the game just after the half hour mark through Chaplen.
Sjoman launched a hopeful free-kick into the box and while there appeared to be little danger, Chaplen made herself a nuisance and headed the ball beyond Chamberlain.
With their tails up, the Lasses begun the second period in great fashion as Krystle Johnston and Chaplen went close to striking Sunderland level.
The visitors continued to press and got their reward in the 61st minute when Johnston’s cross fell to Roche at the back post. Roche did well to get her foot over the ball and arrowed it back into the danger area where Chaplen was waiting to slot home.
The midfielder made no mistake from six-yards out and duly delivered a well-deserved equaliser for Fairweather’s side.
As the half wore on the game began incredibly stretched as both sides went in search of securing all three points. But while Chaplen had a strong penalty appeal waived away, neither side really took the game by the scruff of the neck as the clock ticked over into the final 10 minutes.
With 81 minutes played, van de Sanden then stormed through Sunderland’s backline before getting a toe on the ball to round an onrushing Olsen.
However, her touch took her away from goal and that gave Steph Bannon time to get back and head the ball off the line as the danger was averted.
Chances were at a real premium throughout, but Chaplen’s double has come as a fine response to last weekend’s disappointing cup exit and reaffirmed the fight and team spirit Fairweather has harboured within the Ladies team.
Sunderland Ladies: Olsen, Sharp, Sjoman (Brown, 43), Bannon, Beer, Furness, Chaplen, Staniforth, Johnston (Ramshaw, 72), Roche, Mead.
Unused subs: Laws, McDougall, Joice, Hill