Liverpool Women played a historic match Sunday afternoon, for the first time at Anield, facing historic rivals Everton Women. While they certainly rose to the occasion with their performance, they fell short, conceding a shot from distance and losing 0-1. The defense was strong, but unfortunately for all that strength the attacking side of things were unable to make connections when they needed them the most.
Manager Vicky Jepson gave praise to the women following the match for their resilience against a stronger team, and enjoying the moment of playing at Anfield. Hopefully for not the last time.
“It hurts more when you’ve been the best team on the day. We were definitely the best team on that pitch; one poor shot they had has ended up going in the back of the net with a mistake from our goalkeeper, which I know Anke is absolutely devastated about. But the performance was outstanding,” said Jepson in her post-match press conference.
“They were never going to score unless that goal was given to them and the amount of opportunities we created here was fantastic. The crowd was incredible, getting behind our women’s team. I was really pleased to see that.
“Obviously I’m going to hurt a little bit because it’s a derby game I did not want to lose – and neither did the girls. But if we look at the bigger picture, we certainly put on a good performance for our fans.”
The only goal of the game came from a bungled save by Anke Preuss, an obviously heartbreaking mistake for a top goalkeeper in a dramatic match. As Liverpool fans, we’re no strangers to devastating goalkeeper mistakes, but Jepson was confident that the squad wouldn’t leave their number one behind.
“The first thing she said to me after the huddle was to apologise for her mistake,” continued Jepson. “
But ‘keepers do make mistakes and their mistakes are highlighted more than anybody else’s on the pitch. I know she’ll be gutted because she’s had top form so far this season. It’s just unfortunate it’s here at Anfield.
“They were never going to score if she hadn’t made that mistake, so it’s tough for her to take. But we’ll make sure we lift her up, we’ll be tight together. [It was] a really promising performance. We’ve got to hold our heads high and move on because we’ve got Blackburn on Wednesday night.”
The Women are back in action on Thursday night against Blackburn in the Continental Cup, a tournament that they’ve gotten their only win of the season so far in. Away matches are always tough, but it comes at the perfect time to take their minds off the tough loss.
“We can’t dwell. Today we’ve got time to feel sorry for ourselves and reflect on what we could have done better,” added Jepson.
“But come tomorrow, we’ve got to focus on Blackburn, we don’t get much time. The Wednesday and Thursday night games come at the right time for us to switch off from this and focus on the next one.”
The match itself was historic in more ways than one, with a confirmed final attendance of 23,500 at Anfield of Reds and Blues there to watch the Women battle it out. With average attendance at Prenton Park hovering around the 1100 mark, it represents quite the jump and a big marker to the club itself that there’s people out there that want to support the team - but crossing the Mersey is a little harder than getting to Anfield.
Of the attendance, Jepson said: “The big celebration behind the loss today is that the crowd were incredible – 23,000 here to support us. Hopefully we’ve given the crowd something to be proud of because the performance was there.
“We’ve got a very young squad and they competed right to the level we expected. So I am really proud of the players and I know I’ve got a lot of work to do to try to pick them up and move on to the next game.”
There’s plenty to be optimistic about when it comes to this team, and plenty to be cynical about, but the truth is the Women rose to the occasion of the game and played with strength and heart, and were unlucky. It’s also true that there’s been a lot of unlucky moments in this season, and one wonders when their luck is finally going to turn around — if it wouldn’t even turn at Anfield.