A crowd of 23,500 people watched as Anfield hosted its inaugural Women’s Super League, smashing the 1,800 attendance in the last Merseyside Derby hosted at Prenton Park. The game marked part of a block-bluster weekend for Women’s football that saw Tottenham break the previous 31,213 record from the Manchester derby on the opening day of the season.
While the result would fall in Everton’s favour following a mistake from Anke Preuss, who fumbled a weak long shot from Blues captain Lucy Graham into her own net on the stroke of half-time, there were plenty of positives for Vicky Jepson to take in a performance bursting with effort and endeavour.
Liverpool produce best display of the season despite defeat
Given the contrasting form of both sides, with the Reds picking up a solitary point compared to Everton’s three wins so far this season – as many as they managed in the entirety of last year’s campaign - many would’ve expected Willie Kirk’s side to take the ascendency in the opening exchanges.
Yet, it was the Reds who proved to be the pacemakers, soaking up the historic occasion to deliver their best performance of the season. Indeed, they would have opened the score but for a sensational diving save from Tinja Korpela, who clawed the ball off the line with her left-hand to keep it at 0-0.
Niamh Charles was the orchestrator for the Reds, fuelling optimism over her future in the WSL through direct running and quick-feet to break through the Everton defence. Her attacking ingenuity and guile would prove to be a thorn in Willie Kirk’s side all day, creating several opportunities for Rhiannon Roberts and Kirsty Linnett.
The former would see her long-range strike just about dealt with by Korfela, who was fortunate not to be put under pressure after being caught out by the bounce of the ball.
However, for all their chances and defensive rear-guard, the final touch just wouldn’t come for the Reds, who remain without a goal from open play this season. Lucy Graham’s fortuitous strike on the cusp of half-time, the first shot on target for the away side, was entirely against the run of play, writing off the previously Red-heavy script of the first forty-five minutes.
Rinsola Babajide’s introduction in the second-half would inject impetus and energy into Jepson’s side, who couldn’t be faulted for their endeavour, with the forward’s direct approach causing havoc in the Everton backline.
Indeed, her first touch of the ball saw her take out two defenders down the left-flank before cutting it back to Charles, whose effort was well stifled. Babajide, who has made a series of impactful substitute appearances this season, threatened to single-handedly claw her team back into the contest, cutting the ball into the danger zone only for a lack of bodies in the box enabling Everton to clear their lines.
A performance far superior than what Liverpool’s current league position would suggest, the home side’s effort would prove to be in vein as Everton dug deep to record their sixth win of the campaign, taking them to fourth in the WSL.
An afternoon that wasn't just about the football at Anfield
A result that holds ramifications at both ends of the table, it wasn’t all about the football at Anfield. There was an arguably more significant sub-plot on show as thousands gathered to enjoy a historical spectacle between two Merseyside giants.
Harnessing the buzz surrounding the Women’s World Cup in the summer, an attendance of over 20,000 at Anfield marks a huge step forward and the latest proof of the growing appetite for the women’s game. The sea of young girls adorned their heroes as You’ll Never Walk alone belted out both pre and post-match, providing a moment both fans and players will never forget.
A defeat Vicky Jepson’s side could’ve done without, particularly given the manner of their performance, which warranted so much more, the manager will be buoyed by the flurry of positives on show from her side.
Should they replicate Sunday’s performance in the games to come, they will break their goal duct with haste.