For the first time since 2014, Everton will play in the FA Cup Final at Wembley, with the last time the Toffees winning the competition back in 2010. Everton will play the winner of today’s semi-final fixture between heavyweights Arsenal and Manchester City, with the Final to be played in a month on November 1st.
A dark pitch illuminated by bright lights and the thought of advancing to Wembley served as the backdrop for yesterday’s FA Cup Semi-final. Everton were looking to book a trip to their first final at the national team’s stadium, with Birmingham looking to avenge a 2017 finals defeat.
It took the Toffees a bit of time to settle into the game, with both teams struggling to maintain possession. Bursts up the pitch fractured with the final pass, as both team’s defenses were happy to mop up at the back, disrupting any forward momentum.
Birmingham had a few early shots, but nothing that proved too difficult for Everton shot-stopper Sandy MacIver. With her steady presence in net, Izzy Christiansen and Nicoline Sørensen linked up to create some chances, but failed to break through a stout Birmingham defense led by Rachel Corsie.
The ebb-and-flow of the affair continued when Rikke Sevecke was caught in possession in the eighth minute, but a bit of smart defending saw her win the ball back and limit Birmingham’s attack.
After the opening ten minutes, however, Everton started to push the pace and threaten Birmingham keeper Hannah Hampton to the tune of three corners. In the 16’, the Toffees won a corner, and Sevecke flashed her striking abilities by nailing a one-time shot that rang off the crossbar.
One of the turning points in the first half was when Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah — who made her first start of the campaign for Everton — and Sørensen switched sides. Both dynamic playmakers, Everton proceeded to dominate the flanks for the remainder of the match.
In the 30’, Sevecke hit a long pass to Danielle Turner, who picked out Simone Magill in the box, and the Northern Irishwoman laid the ball to Lucy Graham who fired a shot, again well-defended by Corsie.
With resolute defending by Birmingham throughout the first half, it took Everton 44 minutes to break the deadlock. From the wing, Graham knocked a pass to Clémaron, who rolled the ball to Christiansen, followed by a no-look pass to Magill. All Hampton could do was watch as Magill fizzed a shot past her.
Only being down one saw Birmingham start the second half strong, with a Christie Murray shot forcing a quality save from MacIver. On the ensuing corner kick, MacIver again was alert to the threat and the defense stayed disciplined.
After diffusing Birmingham’s applied pressure, the Toffees worked one of the finest team goals of the season. In the 60’, Megan Finnigan charged from the right-side and sent a perfectly weighted ball over the top of Birmingham’s defense, connecting with Ingrid Moe Wold who had made a superb run forward. With the ball at her feet, Wold looked up and picked out Sørensen who was darting at the back post. Wold floated a pass to Sørensen who finished with aplomb, doubling Everton’s lead.
With Everton dictating the rhythm of the game, Birmingham looked lifeless and dispirited. The 65’ substitution of Hayley Raso only further depleted the hosts, as the energetic Australian had multiple chances to add a third goal.
To cap off perhaps the most complete game of the season, the Toffees added a third goal in the 87’. Christiansen picked off a poor pass, found 19-year-old Molly Pike, who then linked up with her fellow substitute in Valérie Gauvin, sending a pass that cut through Birmingham’s defense. Gauvin was composed and clinical, netting her third goal in four games for her new club.
Three goals, another MacIver clean sheet (her third of the season), and a display of the team’s unity were the winning ingredients for the recipe titled: “Entry to Wembley.” Rain again saturated the pitch, but the celebrations spanned across the West Midlands all the way back to Merseyside.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
It has to be the goal that sent the Toffees to the final. When Gauvin was signed from Montpellier this summer, some saw Magill’s spot as Everton’s top striker in jeopardy. Gauvin — the undisputed starting nine for the French national team — was coming off a six-year stint with Montpellier in which she scored 50 times. In yesterday’s semi-final, Magill showed why Gauvin has started every game on the bench. Not only can Magill take your head off with the power she generates from her shots, she’s also a tireless worker off the ball. She does the dirty work up front and it’s an absolute joy to watch her energy and spirit on the field. She again will be the leader up front in the upcoming cup final.
1. Simone Magill
Defenders can’t even give Magill an inch of space, just ask Rachel Corsie. Magill was the recipient of a brilliant pass from Christiansen and the Toffees can thank their number 10 for firing them to Wembley. Magill has been with the club since 2013 and is the embodiment of what every Everton player — man or woman — should strive to be. When she isn’t scoring, she’s looking to get her teammates involved. She works for the entirety of the time she’s on the pitch and will always fight for her teammates. A lot of the success Everton have achieved is a result of Magill’s work-rate up top.
2. Nicoline Sørensen
Despite starting the game on the left wing, Sørensen played most of the first half on the right side of the field. For her first goal with Everton, however, she scored after having made a piercing run from the left wing. Sørensen is a gifted player who can run at defenses, hold the ball up or track back and defend. Only four games into her Everton career and she is already massively elevating the competitiveness of the team.
3. Ingrid Moe Wold
Let’s give some love to a fullback. Despite playing in a traditionally unglamorous position, Wold has quickly earned the trust of Head Coach Willie Kirk. She is an excellent one-on-one and team defender, has experience playing in high-pressure situations and can carry the ball forward, generating offense. Against Birmingham, the Norwegian right-back had an assist and helped establish a tempo to the game. It’s easy to see why she has played every minute for Everton this season.
Everton (4-3-3): 1-Sandy MacIver; 2-Ingrid Moe Wold, 3-Danielle Turner, 20-Megan Finnigan, 22-Rikke Sevecke; 8-Izzy Christiansen, 17-Lucy Graham (c), 21-Maéva Clémaron; 7-Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah, 10-Simone Magill, 14-Nicoline Sørensen
Substitutes: 16-Hayley Raso for Sørensen 65, 15-Molly Pike for Clémaron 74, 19-Valérie Gauvin for Magill 74, 13-Abbey-Leigh Stringer for Graham 91, 12-Damaris Egurrola for Christiansen 91
Unused Substitutes: 23-Tinja-Riikka Korpela, 30-Poppy Pattinson
Goals: Magill 44, Sørensen 60, Gauvin 87
Birmingham City (4-3-3): 1-Hannah Hampton; 3-Harriet Scott, 4-Rachel Corsie, 25-Rebecca Holloway, 30-Gemma Lawley; 8-Mollie Green, 10-Christie Murray (c), 19-Lucy Whipp; 2-Sarah Mayling, 14-Emma Kelly, 18-Claudia Walker
Substitutes: 11-Abbi Grant for Kelly 64, 22-Connie Scofield for Whipp 64
Substitutes not used: 7-Chloe McCarron, 20-Jamie-Lee Napier, 23-Destiney Toussaint
Bookings: Scott 29, Murray 68