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Liverpool FC Women’s Anfield outing marks significant step forward

Liverpool FC Women may have fallen to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Everton on Sunday, but the significance of the outing at Anfield extended far beyond the result itself.

“Our professional female players deserve this opportunity to play at Anfield for the first time.

“They work tirelessly hard week-in, week-out and regardless of our results so far they always give everything they have got.”

Those words were from manager Vicky Jepson prior to the moment many dreamed of but few had seen become a reality, but now a new generation have plied their trade at Anfield in front of thousands who share the same dream.

Mothers and daughters, dad and lad, mothers and sons and dads and daughters were out in force before kickoff, the next generation watching on as new possibilities played out before them.

It was not the first women’s game to be played at Anfield, but it was the first in the Women’s Super League and, result aside, it was significant to the women’s football landscape across Merseyside.

Both clubs have suffered financially and seen a plethora of players walk through the exit door in recent years and Sunday presented a welcome opportunity to increase the exposer to fans from near and far.

Everton, whose supporters occupied half of the lower Anfield Road End, were the visitors and arrived in fifth position in the table on nine points, closer to Man City at the top than the Reds who sat in last place with just one point on the board.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA - Monday, July 22, 2019: Liverpool's Niamh Charles during a friendly match between Liverpool FC Women and Metropolitan Conference All Stars at Jordan Field at the Harvard Stadium on day seven of the club's pre-season tour of America. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool’s Niamh Charles, a lifelong Red, lit up the early stages, injecting a turn of pace and evading defenders at will both down the left-flank and through the centre, while the midfield duo of Rhiannon Roberts and Jade Bailey thwarted Everton’s every move.

Anfield was just begging to erupt as the Reds continued to pepper Everton’s goal, but, as has been the case throughout the season to date, the final ball proved problematic.

And Everton pounced on their misfortune on the cusp of half-time when a hopeful shot from distance by Toffees skipper Lucy Graham was fumbled over the line by Anke Preuss, who hardly had anything to do throughout opening 45 but stand in the crisp autumnal air.

The Kop beckoned after half-time and Rinsola Babajide set the crowd alight following her introduction before the hour mark, where her pace and movement caught out the tiring Everton backline and set up a myriad of chances to peg back the deficit.

Ultimately, the Reds teased and enticed but failed to see their superiority reflected where it mattered most.

While those of the red persuasion will lament the defeat, as a showcase of women’s football the game was one to savour.

An historic occasion which saw 23,500 fans watch on from the stands, some attending a women’s game or experiencing a matchday at Anfield for the first time.

With average attendances for their matches in the hundreds, both teams were met by an enthusiastic crowd who embraced the action from the moment they walked over the white line.

After the game, Everton’s manager Willie Kirk said: “The atmosphere here was fantastic, it actually felt like about 50,000 fans were there.”

The clash at Anfield was a long time coming and another important step in the growth of the women’s game and, as she did prior to the match, Jepson once again stressed how “every single female player deserves” a strong attendance and moments like Sunday.

Now the ball is in the court of those in positions of power to ensure the wait is not as long as the last, the players, managers and everyone involved in the game certainly do deserve more.

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