It was bound to happen.
The first loss of the season for our Liverpool FC Women, after going down in the first half against Leicester City. Leicester found a second goal early in the second half, and Jess Clarke was able to get a first goal in for the Reds around the hour mark. The goal encouraged the Women to push harder for an equalizer, but it was never found.
Although the fact that we were able to go unbeaten until this moment will block whatever negative feelings come up regarding the loss, it’s still a disappointment. It’s also still early in the season and probably better to get it out of the way early, rather than to keep waiting for the other shoe to drop week in and week out (not to disparage an unbeaten run).
It would be easy to make comparisons to the men’s team at this point, who also lost the last time they played last weekend. After all, both teams were unbeaten, and taken to task by teams that were maybe underestimated. Leicester’s first goal was built up by some lovely, tricky play that Liverpool were unable to shut down, despite their previous defensive record.
Unlike the men’s team, it appeared that the Women’s team were simply unlucky, despite a largely even affair. Liverpool and Leicester both fought well back and forth across the pitch, although Liverpool were unluckier not to get to the home end as often. There’s loads of things one could pick out that didn’t work in the favor of the Reds - some unpunished challenges, playing on turf as opposed to grass - but it wasn’t their lack ability that worked against them.
This Women’s team knows how to fight for results, they did it endlessly last season with very little to show for it, and this match was no exception. Though it was the first time they conceded a goal first this season, rather than scoring first, it was not the gut punch that one would expect out of a team recovering from their first relegation. In truth, Liverpool’s biggest problem was maybe their struggle to get into the Leicester half and take a shot in the first half. Their first and only goal of the afternoon wouldn’t come until late in the second half, after Leicester had already scored their second, and through a mistake by the home ‘keeper.
Leicester, of course, are also fighting for promotion - like all the teams in the Championship League. Another Premier League club gunning for their own spot in the Super League with the rest of the Premier League clubs. This was always going to be a tough match, off the back of two other matches this week including that tough but oh so satisfying mid-week Continental Cup match against Manchester United (that we won, by the way).
Three matches in a week is tough for any team, any squad, and against a technically skilled team like Leicester on a surface that our team are unused to playing on just added to the mountain of issues that our squad had very little control over.
If this team can beat that Manchester United squad, that have been able to buy whatever players they please or sign World Cup winners on loan, this loss against Leicester should be a flash in the pan. Not a fluke, but not exactly a sign of things to come, either. We have seen these Women take control of matches, score on their terms and then preserve those leads. The first goal from the home side was unlucky and unstoppable, despite Liverpool’s best efforts (and they were really good efforts). And that happens, it’s inevitable.
As the manager said following the match, there were loads of positives to take from the match. They never stopped fighting for their chance to take at least a point home, and they should be proud of that. Performing like that under the circumstances that they had to deserves recognition that they probably won’t get due to the nature of being an under-recognized women’s team.
Circumstances that would be avoidable if there were more set standards throughout the league but that’s an argument I’m trying to avoid.
This loss was simply a sign of bad luck, of more things working against the squad than with them this time around, and although they fought valiantly to come up on top, it wasn’t meant to be.
It happens, and though it’s easy to maybe feel a bit defeatist and think that this is maybe a sign of more problems within the squad, the past few matches should’ve proved that that simply isn’t the case. That this squad is built of strong and talented players, that know their game and know how to work towards victory. They know how to win, now more than ever, and can carry that through the rest of the season hopefully towards promotion.
Sure, this is a bump in their momentum, something that surely has been said of the men’s team. Unlike the men’s team, it is not a sign of problems to be fixed. It is simply something that happens, and thankfully they have quite a while to rest up before their next match.
Liverpool Women drop to third place with this loss, and their next match isn’t until November 1st against Lewes FC Women, following the international break at the end of the month. Plenty of time for recovery and work towards overcoming those obstacles that kept them from another win on Sunday.
Another chance to go.