Three league games into the 2020/21 WSL season, Everton have taken nine points from nine, scored eleven goals and conceded none. Yesterday’s drubbing of Aston Villa highlighted how dominant the Toffees have been. As of writing, October 3, the Blues sit top of the table with a plus-11 goal differential and are one of two remaining teams to have won all their games.
Against the Villans, Everton Head Coach Willie Kirk made five changes from the starting eleven that defeated Birmingham City 3–0 in Wednesday’s FA Cup win, with three players — Damaris Egurrola, Valérie Gauvin and Poppy Pattinson — handed their first starts in blue.
Within the opening 30 seconds of the contest, the Toffees almost had a dream start. Everton broke into Villa’s box, with Hayley Raso firing a low shot, only to see goalkeeper Lisa Weiss make a reflex save.
Everton would continue to ask questions of Villa’s defense. In the 3’, Izzy Christiansen picked off a pass and fed Claire Emslie, who cut in from the left and fired a shot over net. Raso would later find Lucy Graham who took a low, hard shot. Seconds later, Valérie Gauvin was gifted the ball inside the 18, but was only able to win a corner when the defender recovered.
Early chances begot the first goal of the afternoon; in the 20’, Damaris sliced a ball through Villa’s defense to Emslie, who crossed a ball in from the left-hand side to Raso, who neatly marked the game’s first tally.
Four minutes later, Weiss played an awful clearance straight to Raso, who was just inside the 18, and the Australian tucked the ball into the bottom-left corner.
To cap off a frenetic seven-minute span, Megan Finnigan knocked a long ball to Raso, who cut in from the right wing, played Christiansen at the top of the 18, who then rolled the ball to Emslie. The Scottish international would then curl a brilliant strike past a diving Weiss.
Everton’s most convincing half of the season ended with a Gauvin goal — her fourth of the season in all competitions — when Raso sent a ball in from the right flank as Gauvin blitzed past her defender and headed the cross into the back of the net.
The start of the second half saw the withdrawal of Raso — for precautionary reasons — in favor of Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah — a marvelous bit of managing by Kirk, as Boye-Hlorkah would score five minutes after coming on — more on that later.
Two minutes after Boye-Hlorkah’s goal, Emslie etched her name on the scoresheet again, as she made a piercing run through Villa’s defense and was deftly picked out by Gauvin. Emslie had a one-on-one with Weiss, touched the ball past the German shot-stopper and calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net.
Even on a torrentuous afternoon, nothing could quell the excitement of a debut day. In the 74’, teenage midfielder Grace Clinton was introduced as an Everton player. Replacing Christiansen in the middle of the park, Clinton did well to intercept passes, break-up play and even had an opportunity in front of net, but couldn’t wrap her foot around a fizzing cross sent in by Boye-Hlorkah.
On the defensive side of the ball, Everton’s organization was so suffocating that Villa’s first shot on target came in the 84’. Stine Larsen fired a pacey shot at Sandy MacIver, forcing a quick save out of Everton’s number one.
After finishing in sixth place last season, Everton’s goal at the beginning of the 2020/21 season was to be one of the top teams in the league. This team has built an incredibly robust atmosphere with a foundation in support and always demanding the best of one another. Following the player’s reactions on social media, the guiding principles of this team are simple yet effective: “MoreThanEleven” and “We keep going.”
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
In a game bursting with highlights, the moment of the match, without question, was Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah’s 50’ goal. Five minutes into the second half, Boye-Hlorkah picked up the ball on the right wing, stutter-stepped her way past the defender and fired a shot into the upper 90. Critics be darned, it was a shot! Just look at the swagger in which she celebrates. Confident and undaunted are the two adjectives that come to mind when thinking about 25-year-old Boye-Hlorkah.
1. Hayley Raso
What a difference this player has made in the span of a month. Signed from Brisbane Roar in January 2020, Raso was unable to feature for the Toffees before the season was cancelled due to injury and the novel coronavirus pandemic. She brings an infectious energy and pop whenever she sets foot on the pitch. Against Villa, she was constantly buzzing in front of net and on the wings, searching for an opening to punish the Villains. With two goals and one assist on the day, Raso is a treat to watch.
2. Claire Emslie
On loan from the Orlando Pride of the NWSL, Emslie has taken to life in Merseyside quite nicely. Capable of playing on the left or right wing, Emslie is a lethal sharpshooter with an eye for goal. Her curling effort past Weiss was followed by a clinic on how to stay composed when on a breakaway. Emslie started against Tottenham but hasn’t had much playing time since; imagine having a player on your bench who, on any given day, can go out and bag a brace.
3. Damaris Egurrola
Damaris’s poise on the pitch truly belies her age; the Spanish defensive midfielder turned 21 just over a month ago. If only we could have a single camera dedicated to tracking Damaris around the field. Traditional statistics fail to account for all of the IQ plays Damaris makes every game. Against Villa, there were several moments where the Villains looked to be through on goal, and had it not been for Damaris tracking back, the scoreline might have looked different. The skill set she possesses — premier positioning and an ability to execute key passes in the final third — is the epitome of what a modern-day central defensive midfielder should be.
Everton (4-3-3): 1-Sandy MacIver; 2-Ingrid Moe Wold, 20-Megan Finnigan, 22-Rikke Sevecke, 30-Poppy Pattinson; 8-Izzy Christiansen, 12-Damaris Egurrola, 17-Lucy Graham (c); 11-Claire Emslie, 16-Hayley Raso, 19-Valérie Gauvin
Substitutes: 7-Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah for Raso 46, 14-Nicoline Sorensen for Wold 59, 13-Abbey-Leigh Stringer for Sevecke 59, 21-Maéva Clemaron for Graham 68, 26-Grace Clinton for Christiansen 74
Unused Substitutes: 3-Danielle Turner, 10-Simone Magill, 23-Tinja-Riikka Korpela
Goals: Raso 20, 24, Emslie 27, 52, Gauvin 39, Boye-Hlorkah 50
Aston Villa (4-3-3): 29-Lisa Weiss; 3-Asmita Ale, 4-Ella Franklin-Fraiture, 6-Anita Asante, 15-Natalie Haigh; 8-Chloe Arthur, 10-Ramona Petzelberger, 23-Nadine Hanssen; 7-Emma Follis, 9-Stine Larsen, 19-Diana Silva.
Substitutes: 12-Jodie Hutton for Follis 46, 17-Sophie Haywood for Hanssen 46, 5-Elisha N’Dow for Silva 65, 14-Emily Syme for Asante 65, 22-Shania Hayles for Larsen 88
Substitutes not used: 1-Sian Rodgers, 11-Amy West, 13-Caroline Siems, 21-Marisa Ewers