“They just maximized the situations,” said Chelsea boss Emma Hayes, summing up her side’s opening weekend loss to Liverpool. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
But beating defending Women’s Super League champions Chelsea isn’t easy. Far from there.
Two penalty kicks ultimately decided the outcome, with Katie Stengel displaying nerves of steel to dispatch the two confidently, nullifying Fran Kirby’s opener.
Liverpool’s highly anticipated return to the WSL turned heads, not least because Matt Beard’s side had failed to get the better of Chelsea since 2014. Not only that, but the Blues claimed victory in each of their last nine league outings – the longest running run in the competition.
But the legacy statistics, often compelling to spectators and the media, do not deter defender Rhiannon Roberts, affectionately known on Merseyside as ‘Razza’.
She wants to focus on the here and now. Only then can you block out the surrounding noise and focus on the “work at hand”. Only then can you become the second newly promoted team to win their opening match of a WSL campaign.
“We as a team know we can compete in the Super League,” Roberts said exclusively sky sports. “The goal was to get off to a good start. The result didn’t shock us.
“We have the players and the team to do that to the teams. A different result for others, maybe, but in our circle it wasn’t.
“The girls have a great mindset. We are working very hard on restarts and resets [when falling behind in games]. We were under pressure after conceding but everyone was focused on the job at hand. We are in a very good position at the moment.”
The Merseyside club are back in the top flight after a two-year hiatus, having dropped out of the WSL in 2020. It has been a tumultuous chapter, defined by rocky relations and insufficient support, as well as a global pandemic.
Even Jurgen Klopp has previously admitted that Liverpool FC are ‘not renowned for dealing with women’s football remarkably well’.
2022-23 marks a different era, however. Beard’s side are rising from the ashes stronger than ever, as evidenced by the impressive dismantling of Chelsea last week.
But the result, eye-catching as it was, came as no surprise to Roberts after a strong claim to the Women’s Championship crown last season – finishing 11 points clear of nearest rivals London City.
He started a new dawn for the women of Liverpool. One that hopes to replace many who came before it.
“We want to inject some rhythm into the games,” Robers said.
“After the Euros we are going to see more attendance and we want to entertain. There has been real progress in women’s football over the last two years.
“This season in particular, the league is so competitive. Teams are going to take points up and down the table.
“I don’t think it should come as a shock to see teams that are traditionally strong in the WSL dropping points. It sends a message. Aston Villa also beat Man City on the opening weekend.
“It’s a really exciting start for the WSL and it shows how well other clubs have caught up. It’s 11v11 on the pitch, with hard work and togetherness, there’s no reason why you can’t strive to take three points every game. That’s our mentality.”
Winning can be like a bargaining chip in terms of football. Often, one win can spawn many more. For Roberts, a campaign littered with conquests like the one just ended served as the perfect tonic for a club that had previously gone through a period of isolation and hardship.
Liverpool have experienced something of a renaissance. Having been cast aside, the two-time WSL champions now prepare for a Merseyside derby to be played on the hallowed turf of Anfield. The buzz has returned and the appetite for competition has never been healthier, says Roberts.
“Last season we got into winning momentum. You can’t replace the feeling of winning every week.
“Mast [Beard] always tell us “remember you are always champions”. It gives us a boost for games. Hopefully we can build some forward momentum now. Beating Chelsea gives us confidence – it shows we can compete.
“Our success is built on togetherness. We have good quality, but we also have good people. This has helped create a positive environment for individuals to thrive.
“If you’re happy off the pitch most of the time, you’re happy on it. That’s when we started playing our best football.”
This weekend, more than points are on the line. Pride is on the line. The Reds take on the blue half of Liverpool at Anfield, live on sky sports. It’s a match that Roberts and her teammates have been drawn to since match-by-minute lists were released over the summer.
An occasion full of opportunity that tends to divide households in the same way that the River Mersey cuts through the vastness of the North West.
“This is the match you are looking for,” said the defender with a hint of excitement. “If playing a Merseyside derby at Anfield isn’t fuel, I don’t know what is. Everyone is buzzing. It’s a big opportunity.
“I played in the game in 2019 and it was amazing. The big crowd was amazing. We would like as many people as possible at Anfield because we thrive on that. It makes a huge difference.
“I remember there were over 23,000 in the ground the last time we played against Everton and it was packed.”
She added: “We want to be focused. To take the opportunity. But ultimately we want to score points. We have set ourselves targets for the first five games and then targets until Christmas. We have high standards.
“We’re really looking forward to being in the spotlight, on a grass mat, it’s going to be amazing. Hopefully there are some tasty tackles in there – it’s a derby after all.”
How to follow the WSL on Sky Sports…
Sky Sports – All 35 matches will be available on Sky Sports’ flagship channels including Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event.
Sky Sports News – Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Barclays FA WSL fans can enjoy Sky Sports News (channel 409) continuous editorial coverage of the league and its storylines throughout the season.
Inside the WSL – Hosted by award-winning journalist and broadcaster Jessica Creighton, Inside the WSL is a comprehensive round-up of all things Barclays FA Women’s Super League and women’s football. Airing weekly on Sky Sports Premier League, the half-hour show will review and preview matches, including in-depth analysis and exclusive player interviews. Viewers can expect engrossing behind-the-scenes access as well as a recap of all the action on and off the pitch.
Sky Sports Social – As well as league coverage and visibility across all major Sky Sports social media channels, the bespoke Twitter channel @SkySportsWSL will continue to be the home of all Barclays FA WSL content on Sky Sports.
New for the 2022/23 season, the Sky Sports WSL TikTok account will give fans 360° coverage of the league and grant them exclusive access to their favorite new players. Also a first for the league, a new Snapchat Discover The Dub show aims to become the platform’s new hub for Barclays’ WSL content.
Showcase of the sky – All Sky customers will benefit from the ability to watch the weekend openers on Sky Showcase (channel 106) without a Sky Sports subscription. This channel is designed to curate some of the best shows, movies and sports from all of Sky’s channels.
Sky Sports Digital – Follow all the latest WSL news on SkySports.com and the app, including exclusive features and interviews, plus dedicated live blog coverage and live game highlights on Sky Sports. You can watch match highlights from every WSL game this season for free on Sky Sports’ digital platforms and YouTube channel.