For the first time since 2011, Everton have started a league season with four straight wins. In that campaign, the Toffees had begun the season with five straight wins, something Head Coach Willie Kirk’s side are more than capable of equaling next Sunday against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Yesterday’s win also marks the fifth game Everton have played in 15 days.
Everton looked all of a team eager to forget a disappointing mid-week loss. Early pressure resulted in a fifth minute set piece. Claire Emslie stood over the ball and delivered a lofting cross into the box, with the result being a shot over the net.
Only three minutes later, Emslie again was involved. Valérie Gauvin picked up the ball in the middle of the field and sent a low pass to Danielle Turner on the left wing. Turner pushed the ball forward and found Emslie several yards ahead. The Scottish winger dribbled at right back Cecilie Redisch, cut inside and delivered a pristine cross to the far post. Once the ball arrived at its final destination, a darting Nicoline Sørensen, the Danish international took one touch to trap the ball and one touch to flash a shot into the back net.
A spell of back-to-back corners continued Everton’s momentum. An effort in the 13th minute sailed over the net, but the better of the two chances from the corner came on the second effort. Izzy Christiansen delivered a pass over the defense to Gauvin, who got a slight touch to the ball but failed to keep her attempt on target.
In the 24th minute, Megan Finnigan played a sloppy ball out from defense, with her clearance dropping to the top of the 18. West Ham delivered a cross into the box, which was dealt with by Finnigan, but the ball fell to Kenza Dali, who buried a shot past a fully outstretched Sandy MacIver. With one swing of the boot, Everton’s spotless clean sheet record in the league was tarnished.
West Ham’s equalizer put some wind in the away team’s sails, epitomized by a superb individual effort by Adriana Leon. In the 32nd minute, the Canadian winger picked up the ball on the left wing and proceeded to dance her way past four Everton defenders. While the run didn’t force a difficult save from MacIver, it highlighted West Ham’s pressure on the Toffees in the latter stages of the first half.
With the Hammers applying pressure, midfield maestro Christiansen snuck a ball through the defense, finding Emslie who had made a stellar run. Despite having time and space, Emslie couldn’t beat Mackenzie Arnold.
A decent start by West Ham upon the resumption of play was countered with two stinging crosses from the wing. The intensity of the match increased as several players went down with injuries — Gauvin appeared to take a knock to her ankle. Thankfully nothing ended anyone’s day, however.
One of West Ham’s five shots on target was a 60th Rachel Daly effort; the English international found herself in some space and fired a hard shot, but MacIver was quick to react and parried the ball away.
With the game still tied at one a piece, Gauvin found herself with the ball at her feet inside the six. Despite a sublime touch that took the ball into the back net, the French international was deemed offside — somewhat questionably.
For the uncertainty around Gauvin’s disallowed opportunity, there was no mistake about the validity of Lucy Graham’s 70th minute goal. With the lead restored, West Ham fought back.
The final 20 minutes of the game saw a sustained spell of pressure from the London outfit, but timely defending and the gloves of MacIver stifled the Hammers. Sturdy defending and a second Graham goal — a tap-in off of a failed clearance from a corner kick — lifted Everton to three points and a 3–1 victory.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
The goal that sealed the three points. Damaris Egurrola took a quick free kick out to Emslie on the wing, who drove by two defenders and sent a looping ball into the box. West Ham managed to clear the danger only as far as Damaris, who took a one-time shot. Dealt with again by the Hammers, the ball escaped to Christiansen as she rolled a one-touch pass back to Lucy Graham, who scored one of the crispest goals of the season — a right-footed shot that eased its way into the top left corner.
1. Lucy Graham
What can’t she do? No matter the game, Lucy Graham, who celebrated her 24th birthday on Saturday, always finds a way to make an impact. Two goals as a substitute against West Ham, four league goals in four games and a commanding presence in the heart of the pitch, Everton’s captain is the all-around player every coach desires.
2. Claire Emslie
Emslie again showed what she is capable of. Building on a two-goal affair against Aston Villa last weekend, Emslie assisted on the opener, her second in the league, and was a constant threat on the wing. Her quick feet and change-of-pace acumen allow her to dictate the tempo in the channels.
3. Nicoline Sørensen
Sørensen continues her magnificent start to the season with yet another goal. Add yesterday’s league goal against West Ham to two league assists and the former Brøndby star is making the WSL her own. Powerful on the wing with skill to dash by defenders, Sørensen is extremely difficult to take off the ball and works to win possession back on defense.
Everton (4-2-3-1): 1-Sandy MacIver; 2-Ingrid Moe Wold, 3-Danielle Turner (c), 20-Megan Finnigan, 22-Rikke Sevecke;12-Damaris Egurrola, 13-Abbey-Leigh Stringer; 8-Izzy Christiansen, 11- Claire Emslie, 14-Nicoline Sørensen; 19-Valérie Gauvin
Substitutes: 17-Lucy Graham for Stringer 61, 16-Hayley Raso for Sørensen 61, 10-Simone Magill for Gauvin 78, 7-Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah for Emslie 81
Unused Substitutes: 15-Molly Pike, 21-Maéva Clemaron, 23-Tinja-Riikka Korpela, 26-Grace Clinton, 30-Poppy Pattinson
Goals: Sørensen 8, Graham 70, 92
Bookings: Finnigan 52
West Ham (4-3-3): 1-Mackenzie Arnold; 2-Cecilie Redisch, 3-Maz Pacheco, 5-Gilly Flaherty (c), 22-Grace Fisk; 17-Ruby Grant, 21-Kenza Dali, 25- Emily Van Egmond; 8-Leanne Kiernan, 19-Adriana Leon, 29-Rachel Daly
Substitutes: 12-Kate Longhurst for Grant 56, 11-Nor Mustafa for Kiernan 73
Unused Substitutes: 18-Courtney Brosnan, 20-Lois Joel, 28-Angie Dunbar, 30-Mia Cruickshank
Goals: Dali 24
Bookings: Longhurst 94