Goodison Park isn’t as festive these days. There was a period of time — from early September to mid-October — when both Everton teams were celebrating, what seemed to be, a continual stream of victories. Recently, however, there hasn’t been much to celebrate on Merseyside; the subdued situation continued against Chelsea.
The opening moments of Sunday’s game were fairly even. Chelsea held more possession but never troubled Sandy MacIver in net. The young goalkeeper — who was nearly flawless against Manchester City in last Sunday’s FA Cup Final — struggled against current champions Chelsea. In the 16th, MacIver went to clear a back-pass, only to see the ball ricochet off Beth England and fall straight to Ji So-yun at the top of the box. Even as MacIver scrambled back, So-yun buried a laser of a shot into the bottom-left corner. A rare mistake from MacIver gifted Chelsea a 1–0 lead.
But MacIver wasn’t the only goalkeeper plagued by inconsistencies. When the score was still level, Ann-Katrine Berger played an errant ball to Damaris Egurrola, who nearly chipped in a shot from 25 yards out.
Other than some crisp passing from Izzy Christiansen and darting runs by Nicoline Sørensen, Everton failed to generate many chances in the first half. Everton’s best opportunity of the half came when Hayley Raso delivered a picturesque ball from the left wing into the box. The delivery deserved a better finish, as Christiansen failed to make anything of the cross.
On the stroke of halftime, MacIver was able to earn redemption by forcing England wide on a one-on-one situation. England was through on goal but hit the side netting from a tight angle.
An early clash of heads — Rikke Sevecke and England came together — saw Everton’s center half forced to remove the field of play; Sevecke would return, however. After 10 or so minutes, Sevecke, who clearly was suffering from concussion-like symptoms, left the match.
Despite trailing by one goal, Everton started ramping up pressure in the 60th. MacIver started the momentum with a sharp save on England. Christiansen then followed by starting a charge up the field with an outlet pass to Sørensen. The Dane worked the ball out wide to Ingrid Moe Wold, who sent a cross to the back post — Raso was unable to finish the chance.
The 10-minute span from the 70th to the 80th was where the game started to unravel for the Toffees. With Chelsea mounting pressure, MacIver was alert to the danger, saving a sharp shot from Erin Cuthbert. On the following possession, however, England found herself open at the top of the box and slotted the ball past MacIver. Moments later, again it was England who was the first to a loose ball after a MacIver save. Within three minutes, Everton went from threatening to level the game to down by three.
Molly Pike had a late opportunity — thanks to another Berger error — but failed to convert. With the momentum all but gone, it was Pernille Harder who demonstrated why she is considered one of, if not the best, forwards in the game. She picked up the ball around the 18 and drove a shot with her weaker, left foot into the top right corner. Everton were outmatched, but four goals was a harsh result, perhaps.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Just at the beginning of the second half, Sevecke and England clashed heads. On the subsequent camera angle, it was evident that Sevecke was in a great deal of pain and discomfort. She was examined by the medical staff, taken off the field, only to return to play. 10 minutes later, however, the Danish international was forced to leave after exhibiting concussion-like symptoms. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for the team’s first-choice center back.
1. Izzy Christiansen
The in-form midfielder had more ground to cover against Chelsea due to the absence of Lucy Graham — who missed the contest through injury. Between commanding Everton’s set pieces, dominating the midfield and looking to push the ball forward, Christiansen has firmly established herself as the fulcrum of the Everton midfield. A proven winner, she will be instrumental in Everton overcoming a recent slippage in form.
2. Hayley Raso
For a player who was once told she might not walk again, Raso’s is a story of incredible perseverance. Her energy on the wing is paired with an unending defensive work-rate. She was the creator of the few chances Everton generated against the champions. Irrespective of whether she operates on the left or right wing, Raso is one of the brightest offensive players in the Toffees’ squad.
3. Claire Emslie
Despite several key injuries, Emslie epitomizes the vast depth Head Coach Willie Kirk has at his disposal. A sharp offensive player, Emslie never gives up on a play — she snuck by Magdalena Eriksson, who was attempting to shield the ball out of play, to win Everton a set piece in a dangerous area. While scoring chances were limited against Chelsea, Emslie flashed creativity on the wing.
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, 8-Izzy Christiansen; 11-Claire Emslie, 14-Nicoline Sørensen, 16-Hayley Raso; 10-Simone Magill
Substitutes: 30-Poppy Pattinson for Sevecke 60, 7-Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah for Magill 72, 15-Molly Pike for Raso 79
Unused Substitutes: 13-Abbey-Leigh Stringer, 21-Maéva Clemaron, 23-Tinja-Riikka Korpela, 26-Grace Clinton
Bookings: Emslie 64
Chelsea (4-3-3): 30-Ann-Katrin Berger; 4-Millie Bright, 16-Magdalena Eriksson (c), 18-Maren Mjelde, 25-Jonna Andersson; 5-Sophie Ingle, 8-Melanie Leupolz, 10-Ji So-yun; 9-Beth England, 22-Erin Cuthbert 23-Pernille Harder
Substitutes: 20-Sam Kerr for Cuthbert 79, 17-Jessie Fleming for So-yun 79, 7-Jessica Carter for Andersson 86
Unused Substitutes: 2-Maria Thorisdottir, 21-Niamh Charles, 32-Emily Orman, 35-Emily Murphy
Goals: So-yun 16, England 73, 76, Harder 97
Bookings: Bright 65