Anfield saw their record-breaking crowd in a Women’s Premier League match even though it wasn’t the outcome most expected. Everton snatched the spoils in the Merseyside derby with a solid display and an all-out victory over Liverpool, timing their first win of the season to perfection from the perspective of new coach Brian Sorensen. Everton won their last derby here in the WSL in 2019 before the crowd reached 23,500. They repeated the feat in front of an audience of 27,574 – attracted by the success of the European Championships, ticket prices of £7 for adults and £1 for franchises, and even a promotional video from Jurgen Klopp – thanks to goals from Megan Finnigan, featured Jess Park and substitute Hanna Benison. The occasion was in line with the growing momentum of the women’s game, but it made it to Liverpool.
“We looked scared,” Liverpool manager Matt Bird admitted. “We have to learn to deal with these kinds of stadiums and fans. I don’t want that to be the excuse but it was a factor. We usually play in Prenton Park, which is good for us. The bigger fans add pressure on us but we have to deal with that because that’s the way The women’s match is going. We are very disappointed with our performance. Everton took full advantage and deserved to win.” His Everton counterpart agreed that crowd was a factor, although Sorensen’s side thrived. “It was good to see so many people here,” said the Everton boss. “We said before the game that we should use our football to calm the fans and that’s what we did. It was a great crowd for women’s football. I am really happy with that.”
Liverpool announced their return to the First Division in remarkable fashion last weekend when they came from behind To beat defending champion Chelsea in Brenton Park. The early win and Anfield support should have given Bird’s players confidence as they try to become the first newly promoted team to win their opening two games in the Women’s Premier League campaign. Instead, the homeowners were immediately at a disadvantage and took control of the tough and sharp Everton side.
With Sweden international Natalie Bjorn dominating the central midfield and Park the most powerful attacking threat on the pitch, Everton were in the lead since the whistle. It took Sørensen’s team just nine minutes to get ahead and the breakthrough was coming. Gabriel George narrowly headed off the first chance in the derby, set up by Catherine Feige’s corner kick, to set the tone for Everton’s success and Liverpool suffering from set pieces.
Finnegan won another corner for the visitors moments later with a submerged shot from 30 yards past Liverpool goalkeeper Rachel Luz. Fiji swept the free kick into the heart of the Liverpool penalty area, as Everton defender Lucy Graham won a header under pressure from Gili Flaherty. While Emma Koivisto hesitated, Finnegan reacted faster to the loose ball and headed a header farther than Luz in the far corner.
Liverpool showed little offensive threat other than Megan Campbell’s precise long throws. However, they were given a chance to equalize, when Everton midfielder Ricky Civici was caught by Katie Stingel and broke the striker. Stingel, who secured two penalties against Chelsea, reduced the recovering Everton defense to her left foot but fired just over Courtney Brosnan’s goal. Everton punished Miss Ball brilliantly.
There was little danger to Liverpool when Bjorn caught Stengel’s errant pass into the guest net. But the brilliant midfielder made appearances deceptive by escaping the attention of Liverpool’s players and spraying a superb long pass over Jasmine Matthews’ head. Park was walking on target and never seemed to miss an opportunity. Showing great rhythm and composure, loaned Manchester City striker Luz sold a doll, stomped the keeper and put a fine finish past Matthews as the defender tried to cover up the goal line.
The home team improved in the second half without disturbing Brosnan. The closest Liverpool goal was when Stengel headed off Rhiannon Roberts’ cross in stoppage time and when the Everton goalkeeper misjudged the rebound before it piled up on the goal line. With three minutes to go, the visitors secured victory when substitute Geo Queiroz was sent off Campbell’s estate and Parks Benison played on goal. The substitute beat Luz with a convincing finish to elicit jubilant spectators on the Everton bench.