Liverpool’s difficult start to the season continued on Sunday as they were defeated 1-0 by rivals Everton in-front of 23,500 fans at Anfield.
The Reds were without a win in five league games so far this season with just a solitary point to their name going into their clash with The Blue Girls this weekend. In contrast, Everton look reborn under the guidance of Willie Kirk who had led them to three victories already in the league this season prior to their short trip to Anfield, the same number they managed throughout the whole campaign last year.
The grandeur of playing their first FA Women’s Super League Merseyside derby at Anfield therefore would be have been viewed as ample opportunity for Everton to assert their supremacy over their city rivals but also preparation for similarly grand days that may lie ahead. Vicky Jepson’s Liverpool on the other hand would have hoped the history and heritage of the surroundings would be enough to galvanize the team into kick-starting their season and lift themselves off the bottom of the table.
However, The Reds went home disappointed as they fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat after a cruel goalkeeping error subjected them to their fifth league defeat of the season in spite of them visibly being the better side for the whole 90 minutes. The home side had 21 shots at goal compared to Everton’s eight but as has been the case so far this season, they were unable to make their chances count.
Mel Lawley had the first effort on goal in the opening three minutes after some industrious work from Niamh Charles down the left the hand side. The marauding run from The Reds’ number 17 opened up some space for Lawley in the middle and the on loan City player let rip a low effort that was smothered by Tinja-Riikka Korpela diving to her right.
The away side continued to struggle with the pace of Charles and she probably should have made it 1-0 when she found herself free from a cut back in the penalty area but she fluffed her shot much to the Toffees’ relief.
Liverpool pressed forward again and looked certain to take the lead through Kirsty Linnett. After a long floated ball into the area from Rhiannon Roberts’ deep free-kick, Everton struggled to clear their lines and the ball ricocheted in the area before Linnett’s guided header brought a magnificent save from Korpela to deny The Reds the opening goal.
It was a subdued atmosphere in the opening stages as if the crowd were holding their breath in anticipation but that was just the injection of energy the supporters needed.
Soon after, Roberts fizzed an ambitious effort of her own from all of 35 yards towards goal and although not the most ferocious of efforts, the bounce caused some real problems for Korpela who was unable to gather. However, there was nobody there to turn in the rebound.
Then it was Anke Preuss’ turn to provide a goalkeeping error of her own. With Lucy Graham in possession of the ball 30 yards out there looked to be little danger to the Liverpool goal and when she let her effort fly it seemed a simple one for Preuss to gather but she fumbled the ball into the net.
Liverpool were the better side in the opening period therefore it will have frustrated Jepson to go into half-time behind, especially after giving away such a cheap goal. Everton boss Kirk will also have been unimpressed with his team’s display, despite leading, as they struggled to get a foothold in the game and create any real chances of their own.
The crowd then made their presence felt in the second half as they willed the home team on in search of an equaliser. However, it was the away side who had the first effort of note after the interval. Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah drove forward down the left and cut in onto her right but her curling effort was this time gathered comfortably by Preuss.
Liverpool still continued to push their way into the Everton half and the injection of pace from substitute Rinsola Babajide proved difficult to handle for the away defence. The equaliser nearly came when the striker cut back and found Niamh Charles on the edge of the area. This time she made a much cleaner connection with the ball but was foiled by a good block from onrushing defender Danielle Carter. The home side consistently exploited Everton’s high line through the pace of their attacking players and found themselves in behind on the wings on a number of occasions. Still the end product was sorely lacking in the final third and they seemed unable to convert their strong positions into convincing opportunities.
If they were to find that elusive equalising goal there looked only one player likely to get it, Charles. Some good work from Roberts on the right created space for her to pick out the former England youth international who this time fired her effort wide of the post.
Unfortunately for them the goal never came and the spoils went to their arch rivals in front of a 23,500-strong Anfield crowd. This means that Liverpool remain rooted to the bottom of the FA Women’s Super League table with only one point and one goal to show from their opening six games. This seems a far cry from the team that clinched back-to-back titles just five years ago and they are now left with an uphill struggle if they are to maintain their top tier status for another year.
As for Everton, they are currently loving life under manager Kirk and with a home fixture against Manchester City in the FA Women’s Continental League Cup up next on Thursday, it is not beyond the realms of possibility they will get one over the reigning champions. The future is looking good for the blue team on Merseyside and concurrently much bleaker for their red counterparts which not even a very enthusiastic fanbase seems capable of solving.