Women’s Football Weekend kicked off with a stalemate in the Merseyside derby after Everton and Liverpool played out a 1-1 draw.
A record crowd of 22,161 turned out at Goodison Park to watch an evenly-contested match as two of the WSL’s mid-table sides went toe-to-toe.
The Reds responded well after falling behind, with both sides having second-half goals disallowed as the points were shared.
Everton controlled the opening stages and thought they were through on goal when Agnes Beever-Jones robbed Megan Campbell of possession, but her eagerly aggressive challenge was deemed as illegal and Liverpool were awarded a free-kick before the teenager could pull the trigger.
Campbell went down the other end and showed her offensive presence with a long throw which caused carnage in the Everton box, with Missy Bo Kearns having a fierce shot blocked and cleared.
The hosts took the lead midway through the first half. Captain Gabby George cut inside from the left and put in a curling cross which managed to sneak into the top corner, with goalkeeper Rachael Laws unable to palm the ball to safety.
Brian Sorensen’s side, who had now ended a WSL goal drought which lasted over five hours, thought they had a second soon after. George’s cross went right the way through the Liverpool box and fell to Megan Finnigan, but her fierce half-volley was blocked off the line by Gemma Bonner.
Liverpool’s first real chances of the first half came within a minute of each other. Firstly, Yana Daniels knock down a long ball for Kearns, who dragged a shot from 20 yards well wide.
Soon after, Daniels was again the provider as she teed up the advancing Emma Koivisto who had made a surging run into the Everton box, and with her outreached toe she poked an effort agonisingly beyond the post.
But that pressure soon paid off with an equaliser. Missy Hinds’ shot was taken in stride by Katie Stengel, who managed to side-step a heavy challenge from Rikke Sevecke and fire into the bottom corner.
Sevecke sought to make amends with a goal of her own when Laws flapped at a corner from Nicoline Sorensen, but the Denmark defender’s shot on the turn flew just over the crossbar.
Everton were lucky to avoid conceding a penalty in first-half stoppage time when Finnigan hoofed Daniels in the calf when contesting a high ball.
Just after the break, Liverpool were incensed that they hadn’t taken the lead. Leighanne Robe managed to poke home at the near post following a flick on by Daniels but the referee ruled the goal out to the confusion of everyone inside Goodison Park, though replays suggested Ceri Holland had slightly impeded goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan when the ball first came in.
The home faithful thought they had another goal to cheer just after the hour mark. Sorensen bombed down the right wing and delivered a wonderful cross for the unmarked Jess Park, but she just couldn’t direct her header on target.
Returning substitute Shanice van der Sanden was straight into the action for Liverpool, stretching play and picking out Holland with a cut-back, but her shot which seemed bound for the top corner was well held by Brosnan.
Van der Sanden then surged forward and selfishly pulled the ball back for Stengel, who was only denied a second by a goal-line block by Finnigan.
Just as Liverpool had a goal disallowed, so did Everton as the game entered the latter stages. Sevecke’s ball forward was controlled by the arm of Park before she managed to pirouette and dink Laws from 25 yards, with the strike cruelly but correctly chalked off.
Deep into seven minutes of stoppage time, Brosnan denied Stengel from point blank range after a knockdown by Miri Taylor before then clawing a Holland strike to safety as Everton just about escaped with a point at the last.
GK: Courtney Brosnan – 7/10 – Claimed a few tough crosses as Liverpool peppered the Everton box. Quite lucky that Robe’s goal was ruled out for a perceived foul, though equally did superbly to deny Stengel and Holland last-gasp winners.
RB: Megan Finnigan – 7/10 – Shuffled up the pitch when Everton had the ball and was able to roam forward in tandem with Sorensen.
CB: Nathalie Bjorn – 6/10 – Stepped into midfield when necessary to win possession back.
CB: Rikke Sevecke – 5/10 – Can’t really fault her for Liverpool’s equaliser, despite being so close to getting the ball.
LB: Katrine Veje – 6/10 – Often interchanged with George down the left wing, providing another forward option when in possession.
RM: Nicoline Sorensen – 8/10 – A live-wire throughout, troubling Liverpool with her searing pace and pinpoint delivery.
CM: Clare Wheeler – 5/10 – Didn’t stand out too much in the midfield battle.
CM: Jess Park – 6/10 – Similarly looked good technically without proving exceptional.
LM: Gabby George – 7/10 – Started the game tucked inside before fully shifting to the wing. The opener kicked her into gear.
AM: Agnes Beever-Jones – 5/10 – Flittered between the lines to help in the midfield battle and find holes in the Liverpool backline. Faded out of the game and was substituted.
CF: Katja Snoeijs – 5/10 – Often isolated and had to be supported by runners from the wing and midfield.
Aurora Galli (56′ for Beever-Jones) – 6/10
Hanna Bennison (71′ for Veje) – 5/10
Issy Christiansen (87′ for George) – N/A
Elise Stenevik (87′ for Wheeler) – N/A
Brian Sorensen – 6/10 – Everton played with a directness and excitement on a big night at Goodison Park.
GK: Rachael Laws – 4/10 – Should have done better to palm George’s cross the opener away.
CB: Leighanne Robe – 5/10 – Beaten easily by George for the opener but it’s hard to put too much blame at her door.
CB: Gemma Bonner – 6/10 – Managed to get her head on a lot of crosses and make several key clearances.
CB: Megan Campbell – 5/10 – Had a tough game trying to keep Sorensen and Finnigan quiet, eventually hooked for fresher legs.
RM: Emma Koivisto – 5/10 – Showed promise when joining attacks but not on a consistent basis.
CM: Fuka Nagano – 6/10 – Raised the technical levels of the team when in possession and popped up in advanced areas.
CM: Ceri Holland – 6/10 – Quiet in the first half but was more of a protagonist in the second, working well in partnership with Nagano.
LM: Taylor Hinds – 5/10 – Grabbed an assist but had a largely quiet game.
AM: Missy Bo Kearns – 6/10 – Often at the heart of Liverpool’s best moves, though these chances dried up later in the game.
CF: Yana Daniels – 6/10 – Constantly involved in Liverpool’s attacks and can count herself a little unfortunate not to have lasted the full 90.
CF: Katie Stengel – 8/10 – Took the equaliser so, so well. If anything, it’s a shame she wasn’t utilised more when Liverpool had the ball.
Jasmine Matthews (65′ for Campbell) – 6/10
Shanice van der Sanden (65′ for Daniels) – 7/10
Rhiannon Roberts (84′ for Robe) – N/A
Sofie Lundgaard (84′ for Kearns) – N/A
Miri Taylor (90′ for Koivisto) – N/A
Matt Beard – 6/10 – Liverpool played admirably with their backs to the wall. Their performance was less about star talent and more about how the team functioned as a whole, though the introduction of Van der Sanden was a smart one to inject fresh impetus.