Sunderland Ladies head coach Mel Reay says the penalty victory over Liverpool has given her side ‘real belief’ heading into Sunday’s game against Sheffield United.

Maria Farrugia was the shoot-out hero as the Black Cats won 4-2 in their final Continental League Cup group match to claim the bonus point after the tie finished goalless.

Despite the Reds controlling possession for large parts throughout the 90 minutes and creating the better chances, Reay was pleased with the determination and effort from her players to match their opponents.

“We were really happy,” she told after the game. “We tweaked the shape slightly because we knew how they set up with the three at the back.

“I thought to every person on the pitch they put a real shift in and understood their roles and responsibilities in possession and out of possession, and we matched the best team in the league for 90 minutes and that’s something that we need to be really proud of.”

Mel reay

“I think it was pretty even. They probably had a little bit more of the ball than we did, but in terms of the chances, I think we created a lot more chances than we did last time we played them, and that was a real positive as well.”

Despite the Black Cats finishing second in Group A with seven points, they are unlikely to qualify for the quarter finals as best placed runners up due to results in the other group games and Manchester City still to face Leicester City after their match was postponed.

However, the season’s target has always been survival for Reay and her side can now focus on cementing their place in the Championship for another season starting with Sunday’s trip to Sheffield United.

Sunderland will have most of their squad available for the trip to Yorkshire, welcoming back Charlotte Potts and Abbey Joice on Wednesday alongside Grace McCatty who has been unavailable for several weeks due to work commitments.

Reay added: “They’ll take some real belief from [the Liverpool game] and that’s really important going into Sunday.

“It’s been a really tough week, but we’re delighted to have some bodies back in amongst the squad, and it’s really important that we keep everyone fit. “It’s a real team effort this week with all three games and we’re going to need everyone to step up. We’ll rest and recover and come back in on Friday, and we’ll see what team we can put out on Sunday again.”