A quick delay before the game to secure the nets forced both Everton and Manchester City to stay loose on a frigid Liverpool afternoon. The movement generated while the officiating staff attended to the issue of the nets was perhaps the Toffees’ best spell of possession all afternoon.
As scripted, City came out on the front foot and won several early corners. Even with Gareth Taylor resting a handful of starters in preparation for Wednesday’s Champions League game against Göteborg, the Citizens made life difficult for Everton in the early stages of the contest.
Against a powerhouse such as Manchester City, teams must capitalize on the chances they are able to generate; Everton were unable to do so. Hayley Raso whiffed on a shot inside the six after Nicoline Sørensen delivered a cross into the box, and Everton were ineffective on their six corner kicks.
With Rikke Sevecke forced to sit out Sunday’s match due to an injury sustained in training, Megan Finnigan was asked to shoulder the defensive load with inexperienced center-back Damaris Egurrola lining up next to her. Finnigan was sharp in the air and did well to anticipate much of City’s early movement in the offensive third.
For all the brave defending, Finnigan and her Everton teammates kept City off the score sheet for only 25 minutes. Caroline Weir drove down the left wing and played a looping ball in to Ellen White, who positioned herself just inside the 18. What initially looked like an arching header hit without pace floated over Everton goalkeeper Sandy MacIver, who was caught off her line. This was the earliest the Toffees had conceded against City in three meetings this season.
For all the struggles Everton have endured when matching up with City, Sunday’s affair carried a similar ethos. Seconds after White stung a header over MacIver’s head, Gemma Bonner was left unmarked at the back post on a corner kick. A congested box permitted Bonner to lose her defender and strike a header straight into the ground and past a diving MacIver. In the span of one minute and eight seconds, Everton found themselves trailing by two goals to none.
On the stroke of halftime, City again punished Everton’s disjointed defending. Janine Beckie, who failed to convert on a breakaway 15 minutes earlier, sprinted on a counterattack to the far-right post. Weir, who was a markswoman from the left wing, galloped down the left channel, unencumbered, and picked out Beckie for the game’s third and final header-goal. With Beckie’s strike went Everton’s hope of three points.
With City dominating in every aspect of the game, the second half came with few chances for either team. In a fixture that was decided in the first 45-minutes, the final 45 was merely a formality. Sørensen fired a shot straight at City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck, and Raso looked to be away on goal before a heavy touch saw the opportunity disappear, much like Everton’s chance at defeating a team that has dominated the Toffees to the tune of nine goals in three games. With fixtures against Birmingham City, Arsenal and Manchester United in the league, and United again in the Continental Cup, life won’t get any easier for the Toffees moving forward.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
After 25 minutes of exemplary defending — and a handful of decent chances — Everton conceded yet again against a City squad that has consistently confounded Willie Kirk’s group. Defensive frailties are tolerable, if not expected, against a Manchester side that is one of the deepest teams in Europe, but Everton will be disappointed at allowing two goals in one-minute’s time. To defeat City is to complete a perfect game, and Everton were far from their best on Sunday.
1. Hayley Raso
Raso always brings pace and energy on the wing or through the center of the pitch. Despite her crafty play in midfield, a defense featuring Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton and Demi Stokes neutralizes even the most gifted wingers. Raso was brave in the final third and even had an opportunity to earn her side a consolation goal but took a heavy touch, extinguishing the final flicker of hope of a deflated Everton side.
2. Izzy Christiansen
Leading up to Sunday’s match, Christiansen had played in seven games, 614 minutes, scored twice and assisted thrice for the Toffees. Even more impressive was her domination of the midfield paired with a tally of 20 key passes. Having carried Everton throughout the season, Christiansen was mostly held in check against a swift and forceful City midfield. Even with a difficult result, Christiansen is one of the undisputed leaders of Kirk’s side.
3. Megan Finnigan
It was always going to be a difficult game against City in the best of circumstances. Add to that a last-minute injury to Rikke Sevecke, Finnigan’s defensive partner for much of the season, and the task became all the more challenging. With a dearth of true center-half options on his bench, Kirk turned to 21-year-old Damaris Egurrola to replace the injured Sevecke. Without Finnigan’s defensive decisiveness, this game easily could have gotten out of hand.
Everton (4-2-3-1): 1-Sandy MacIver; 2-Ingrid Moe Wold, 3-Danielle Turner, 20-Megan Finnigan, 21-Damaris Egurrola; 8-Izzy Christiansen, 13-Abbey-Leigh Stringer, 21-Maéva Clemaron; 14-Nicoline Sørensen, 16-Hayley Raso, 17-Lucy Graham (c)
Substitutes: 15-Molly Pike for Raso 77, 7-Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah for Clemaron 77
Unused Substitutes: 23-Tinja-Riikka Korpela, 26-Grace Clinton, 30-Poppy Pattinson
Bookings: Raso 29, Clemaron 66, Sorensen 75
Manchester City (4-3-3): 26-Ellie Roebuck; 3-Demi Stokes, 4-Gemma Bonner, 6-Steph Houghton, 20-Lucy Bronze; 8-Jill Scott; 19-Caroline Weir, 24-Keira Walsh; 11-Janine Beckie, 18-Ellen White, 21-Rose Lavelle
Substitutes: 9-Chloe Kelly for Lavelle 45, 27-Alex Greenwood for Bonner 64, 22-Sam Mewis for Weir 64, 15-Lauren Hemp for Beckie 71, 10-Georgia Stanway for White 76
Unused Substitutes: 1-Karen Bardsley, 14-Esme Morgan, 16-Jess Park
Goals: White 25, Bonner 26, Beckie 45