With the men’s players away with their various national teams, this weekend has been designated as Women’s Football Weekend - one of two weekends out of the season when the league and the clubs throw everything they have into promoting the Women’s teams.
(That is me being positive and looking at the silver lining).
Last season, the Women’s teams were able to play in front of thousands of fans in the larger club stadiums, with attendance records being broken left and right. That old quote If you build it, they will come comes to mind. If you give them the chance, if you make these games accessible, people will come to them. But that’s not the point.
This year, there is a widespread pandemic and England is still in the throes of their second lockdown period, so that side of Women’s Football Weekend was shelved until safer times. So Liverpool traveled to Blackburn and the Sir Tom Finney Stadium, rather than Ewood Park or Anfield, for their last league match until December 6th.
The story of this season has been about fighting for promotion, to get back to the WSL, after that heartbreaking relegation last season - the only trouble with that is that only one team from the Championship league gets promoted. Even with the Reds’ great start to their season, they sit in third place, behind Leicester and Durham, and need every three points they can get for themselves - especially if the season gets prematurely canceled again.
The pressure was on for both teams, then.
Liverpool started quickly, pressing forward and getting two shots in within the first four minutes of the match, although Blackburn’s keeper Alexandra Brooks set the tone for the battle to come.
That was essentially how the match ended up - a battle of the keepers, although Liverpool did well to keep Blackburn from getting more than a couple chances in towards Rachel Laws. It was Brooks that was called into work as Rinsola Babajide, Ashley Hodson, and Amalie Thestrup tested her fairly consistently. Watching the first half, one would’ve felt confident that the Women would’ve poked on through at some point, but it wasn’t to be. Blackburn did well to mark Babajide, recognizing her as one of our more lethal players, and shutting down most connections to Rachel Furness as well.
The second half started with a change, as manager Vicky Jepson put on Meikayla Moore in midfield for Thestrup, moving Furness further forward to make her a bit more accessible.
In truth, it wasn’t a very exciting match. Alexandra Brooks was stellar in keeping Liverpool from scoring, even as Babajide was clean through on goal around the 56th minute, and she made a crucial save to keep the Reds from gaining the lead. Mel Lawley was hungry enough to go quite often for the goal, but was unlucky enough to join the ranks of her other attackers that had been denied by Brooks.
At no point, though, did Liverpool ever sit back and decide that their aim would be to just keep Blackburn from scoring. There was no point when these Women were happy to accept only a point from this match, as they kept going for that elusive breakthrough up until the final whistle. Even as Blackburn’s intention was firstly to keep Liverpool from scoring — which, to be fair, they obviously achieved — the Reds consistently pushed through, taking any opportunity to get a shot away and see what would happen.
It would be unlucky for them that Brooks had the match of her life, especially against this hungry Liverpool side.
Women’s football isn’t always classic matches, though. As is true of the Men’s game, there are disappointments like this. There are days when no matter how hard you work, you can’t find that goal, and you as a fan might fall asleep. Even with all of the promotion of the Women’s Football Weekend, or lack thereof, sometimes you end up with a match like this — a goalless 90 minute battle.
Being a fan, being supportive of the game, means sticking around for these, taking part and supporting the clubs even as they struggle through matches, through injuries, through poor decisions by ownership, and threadbare squads. Even in truth, this is not even evidence of Liverpool struggling to find points. It was just unlucky for them that Alexandra Brooks was able to make the most saves and deny Babajide multiple times, that Blackburn were able to keep Rachel Furness from being as effective as she normally is.
It happens. Matches like this happen, across all leagues. It’s a shame that it happened during Women’s Football Weekend, when the game is the most accessible to fans, and fans could be watching these Women’s teams for the first time. But that part isn’t the responsibility of the players.
All we can hope for as fans is that these people that watched this game, decide to stick around for Wednesday and the upcoming Merseyside Derby for the Continental Cup. More eyes on this team, this league, these women, will only benefit them - especially for when it is safe to go to matches again.
Wednesday’s match against Everton will be free to watch across Liverpool platforms, on YouTube and LFCTV Go, at 11am Pacific Time.