Finnigan leads Everton to WSL win over Liverpool in front of record crowd


Anfield witnessed its record crowd for a Women’s Super League fixture although not the outcome the majority had expected. Everton took the spoils in the Merseyside derby with a commanding display and comprehensive victory over Liverpool, timing their first win of the campaign to perfection from the perspective of their new manager Brian Sørensen.

Everton won the last WSL derby here in 2019 before a then record crowd of 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 concessions, even a promotional video from Jürgen Klopp – courtesy of goals from Megan Finnigan, the outstanding Jess Park and the substitute Hanna Bennison. The occasion was in keeping with the growing momentum of the women’s game, but it got to Liverpool.

“We looked scared,” the Liverpool manager Matt Beard admitted. “We have to learn to deal with these types of stadiums and crowds. I don’t want that to be the excuse but it was a factor. We usually play at Prenton Park, which has been very good for us. The bigger crowd does add pressure to us but we have to cope with that because this is the way the women’s game is going. We are desperately disappointed with our performance. Everton took full advantage and thoroughly deserved to win.”

His Everton counterpart concurred that the crowd was a factor, although one that Sørensen’s side thrived upon. “It was good to see so many people here,” the Everton manager said. “We said before the game that we should use our football to quieten the crowd down and that’s what we did. It was an amazing crowd for women’s football. I’m really happy with it.”

Liverpool had announced their return to the top flight in eye-catching style last weekend when coming from behind to beat reigning champions Chelsea at Prenton Park. The early win and Anfield’s backing should have infused Beard’s players with confidence as they attempted to become the first newly-promoted team to win their opening two matches in a Women’s Super League campaign. Instead, the hosts were immediately on the back foot and dominated by a strong and sharp Everton side.

With the Swedish international Nathalie Björn controlling central midfield and Park the most potent attacking threat on the pitch, Everton were in the ascendency from the first whistle. It took only nine minutes for Sørensen’s team to edge in front and the breakthrough had been coming. Gabrielle George headed narrowly over from the first opportunity of the derby, created by Katrine Veje’s corner, setting the tone for Everton success and Liverpool struggles from set-pieces.

Finnigan won another corner for the visitors moments later with a dipping shot from 30 yards tipped over by the Liverpool goalkeeper Rachael Laws. Veje swept the resulting set-piece into the heart of the Liverpool penalty area where the Everton defender Lucy Graham won a header under pressure from Gilly Flaherty. While Emma Koivisto hesitated, Finnigan reacted quickest to the loose ball and steered a header beyond Laws into the far corner.

Liverpool had shown little as an attacking threat beyond the accurate long throws of Megan Campbell. They were gifted a chance to level, however, when the Everton centre-half Rikke Sevecke was caught in possession by Katie Stengel and the striker broke clear. Stengel, whose two penalties had secured victory over Chelsea, cut back inside the recovering Everton defence on to her left foot but fired high over Courtney Brosnan’s goal. Everton punished the miss brilliantly.

There appeared little danger to Liverpool when Stengel’s mis-placed pass was seized upon by Björn deep inside the visitors’ half. But the polished midfielder made appearances look deceptive by escaping the attentions of two Liverpool players and spraying a superb long pass over the head of Jasmine Matthews. Park was through on goal and never looked like wasting the chance. Showing excellent pace and composure, the on-loan Manchester City forward sold Laws a dummy, stepped across the keeper and placed a cool finish past Matthews as the defender attempted to cover on the line.

The home side improved in the second half without seriously troubling Brosnan. The closest Liverpool came to a goal was when Stengel headed over from Rhiannon Roberts’ cross in stoppage time and when the Everton goalkeeper misjudged the bounce of a ball before gathering on the line. With three minutes remaining the visitors guaranteed victory when the substitute Gio Queiroz dispossessed Campbell and Parks played Bennison through on goal. The substitute beat Laws with a convincing finish to spark jubilant scenes on the Everton bench.

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Marta Lopez

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