FA Women’s Super League: Ghosts of 1989 won’t faze Liverpool side intent on creating own history

A draw in the final day showdown with Bristol Academy will complete their rise to the top

The last time a football team travelled to Liverpool needing victory to snatch the league title from their hosts’ grasp, the ensuing drama ended up inspiring a couple of books and a film. That was the night of 26 May 1989 when an injury-time goal from Michael Thomas claimed the old First Division title for Arsenal against a Liverpool side who had only needed to avoid defeat by two goals to complete the double.

That climax, celebrated in Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, is unmatched in the long history of the men’s game in this country yet the FA Women’s Super League, in just its third season, has contrived to give us its own last-day showdown between the top two – with Liverpool involved again tomorrow when they take on a Bristol Academy side two points worse off and needing victory.

Matt Beard, the Liverpool Ladies manager, gave a one-word answer – “no” – when asked if that Thomas goal had come up in conversation this week. He and his players are more interested in creating fresh history and they go into tomorrow’s decider at their Halton Stadium home in Widnes, eyeing a first-ever trophy. Liverpool have been top since late May, having progressed more quickly than envisaged in the initial “three-year plan” Beard put in place on arriving from Chelsea in summer 2012. “Our ambition this year was to finish in the top four,” says Beard, who won the FA Cup with Charlton. They already have a Champions League place booked for the first time but “now we are where we are, we want to win it”, he added.

For Beard it is “good for the game” that there will be a new name on the trophy with Arsenal, champions for the last nine seasons, out of the running after a three-point deduction for fielding an ineligible player and he predicts that the competition’s strength in depth will grow further “with Manchester City coming into the Super League [at Doncaster Rovers Belles’ expense] and Lincoln going to Notts County”, even if those moves offend many people’s sense of fairness.

Tomorrow’s contest is very much David versus Goliath with Liverpool’s playing budget roughly three times that of Academy, a club affiliated to South Gloucestershire and Stroud College. Bottom in each of the past two campaigns, Liverpool received a big investment from Anfield’s American owners during the past close season, which brought in 12 new players – six from abroad as well as Everton’s England pair Fara Williams and Natasha Dowie. “The investment from the club has given us a buzz and it enables us to compete,” says Beard. “I felt we recruited not only talented players but the right characters as well. Chelsea have brought in similar numbers to us and struggled.”

Liverpool’s squad train together five evenings a week at the club’s Kirkby Academy and Beard has been at Melwood to learn from Brendan Rodgers, who passed on his best wishes when the pair met there on Thursday. Beard also spent the evening hoping his eight players in international action would survive unscathed.

If Liverpool, comfortably the league’s top scorers, prevailed 4-3 when the teams met in Bristol in August, the visitors, who will bring 300 travelling fans with them, believe anything is possible after setting up tomorrow’s showdown by overturning a 3-0 deficit at Doncaster, Spanish forward Natalia netting the winner in the 89th minute to complete her hat-trick. “If we get a performance and get the attitude right we have a great chance to shock everyone by winning the league,” said coach Mark Sampson. His team lost the FA Cup final to Arsenal but the league, as Brian Moore said at Anfield all those years ago, is up for grabs now.

Liverpool Ladies v Bristol Academy is live on BT Sport 2, kick-off 2pm

Goal-den girls: The striking stars

Natasha Dowie, 25, Liverpool

The WSL’s top scorer with 13 goals from 13 games, including a hat-trick against old club Everton. Has improved fitness and finishing with Liverpool’s daily training regime and marked her England recall with goals against Belarus and Turkey this week.

Natalia Pablos, 27, Bristol Academy

Three times a league champion in Spain with Rayo Vallecano, the experienced Natalia is one of three Spaniards adding an international dimension to Academy, a community club packed with home-produced players. A mate of Swansea’s Michu, she has 12 goals in all competitions.

voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn