Finnigan leads Everton to WSL win over Liverpool in front of record crowd | Women’s Super League

Anfield witnessed its record crowd for a Women’s Super League fixture although not the outcome the majority of the 27,574 audience had expected. Everton took the spoils in the Merseyside derby with a commanding and comprehensive victory over Liverpool, timing their first win of the campaign to perfection from a blue perspective. Everton won the last WSL derby here in 2019 before a then record crowd of 23,500. They repeated the feat in front of a new record breaking attendance — attracted by ticket prices of £7 for adults, £1 for concessions and a promotional appeal from Jürgen Klopp — courtesy of goals from Megan Finnigan, the outstanding Jess Park and substitute Hanna Bennison.

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 the backing of the majority of an Anfield crowd should have infused Matt 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 for much of the first half by a strong and sharp Everton side. Brian Sørensen’s first game in charge following a summer overhaul ended in defeat at West Ham, extending Everton’s winless league run to eight matches in total, but there was no evidence of that sequence preying on the visitors’ self-belief.

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 throughout the opening 45 minutes. Finnigan won another corner for the visitors moments later with a dipping shot from 30 yards that was 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 the initial header under pressure from Gilly Flaherty. While Emma Koivisto hesitated, the alert Finnigan reacted quickest to the loose ball and steered a header beyond Laws into the far corner. It was no more than Everton deserved. 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 onto her left foot but fired high over Courtney Brosnan’s goal.

Everton play Liverpool in front of a record crowd
Anfield hosted a record crowd for a Women’s Super League game. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

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 in the Liverpool goal, stepped across the keeper and placed a cool finish past Matthews as the central defender attempted to cover on the line.

Ceri Holland wasted a good chance to reduce the arrears shortly before the interval when Everton failed to clear a corner and the ball broke invitingly for the Liverpool midfielder. Her curled attempt towards the unguarded far side of Brosnan’s goal sailed wide.

It should have been three for the visitors moments later when the striker Katja Snoeijs drove at the Liverpool defence before finding Izzy Christiansen in space on the left. The Everton captain rolled a perfect return ball across the face of goal but, despite arriving ahead of her markers, Snoeijs scuffed her shot wide of the far post and injured herself in the process.

The home side were much improved in the second half but rarely able to test Brosnan in the Everton goal. 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 goal-line. With three minutes remaining the visitors guaranteed victory when the substitute Gio Queiroz dispossessed Campbell and Parks played Bennison through on goal down the left. The substitute beat Laws with a convincing finish to spark jubilant scenes on the Everton bench.

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