Recover from allowing a fourth minute goal. Check. Defeat title holders Chelsea. Check. Earn a spot in the FA Cup Semi-finals. Check. It must have been the fact that Gabby George, who is still recovering from injury, was commentating that gave Everton a little extra boost. Playing at Goodison Park, there was an energy around the stadium that would foreshadow the game’s events. A sunny yet cool day on Merseyside ended with the Everton squad cementing themselves as serious title contenders.
Chelsea were heavily favored entering the day and looked all of a team that would storm into Goodison and cruise to a victory. In the fourth minute, after dictating all of the opening play, Erin Cuthbert received a pass inside the 18 and fired a low, driving shot past Sandy MacIver.
Up 1–0 inside four minutes, Chelsea would continue to threaten. First in the form of a Ji So-yun shot, quickly followed by a Cuthbert double-chance, with MacIver and Lucy Graham keeping the ball out of the net.
Despite conceding much of the run of play to Chelsea in the first ten minutes, Everton grew into the game after a slow start. The team responded by working the ball through the midfield and out to the wings, constantly relying on Hayley Raso to drive the team up the pitch.
With the speed of Chelsea’s wingers on full display, both Danielle Turner and Ingrid Moe Wold did marvelously to provide cover on the outside. Turner slowed down Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby, while Wold dealt with Cuthbert and Pernille Harder.
Even though the Toffees improved, there was still plenty of work to do. With MacIver providing stability in net, Everton improved their shape and communication, and looked much calmer in possession.
In the 39’, Willie Kirk’s side showed why they should be in the top-four conversation. Izzy Christiansen broke Chelsea’s midfield and sent a darting pass out to Nicoline Sørensen on the wing. The Danish international then laid a pass into the stride of Wold, who deftly crossed the ball into Graham, who levelled the score with a picturesque diving header.
Just four minutes later, Graham again was involved in an Everton opportunity. She lifted a pass over the center-backs to Raso, who touched the ball past Ann-Katrin Berger, but a bit of smart defending by Jessica Carter kept Raso off the scoresheet.
Despite some late pressure from Chelsea — Kirby picked out Harder in the box — MacIver was alert to the danger as the Toffees went into the break on level terms.
A double-substitution at the beginning of the second half saw Damaris Egurrola, who got her Everton debut, and Valérie Gauvin replace Abbey-Leigh Stringer and Simone Magill, respectively — both would be instrumental in Everton’s win.
A strong start to the second half saw the Toffees maintain a fighting spirit, a spirit that was epitomized by MacIver’s consistency in net; Chelsea peppered the Everton shot-stopper from all over the pitch. First Kirby, then Harder, followed by Beth England. None, however, could find a way through Everton’s compact defense and MacIver’s resolute keeping.
MacIver’s presence in net galvanized the Toffees, leading to the 63’ goal. Raso picked up the ball on the left wing, dribbled at Maren Mjelde, and put a low cross into the box. Gauvin displayed her striking prowess by running goal-side of her defender and knocking the ball past Berger. With 27 minutes left to play, Everton had a lead to protect.
Chelsea had the ball for the remaining 25 minutes of the game, but could not crack the Everton defense. Chelsea’s best chance came in the 93’, as a cross from a set piece bounced around the box, but Everton were able to clear the danger.
The final whistle melodiously rang around Goodison as the team mobbed MacIver in front of goal.
Everton will now face Birmingham City in the semis this Wednesday, September 30, at 2:15 p.m. ET (7:15 p.m. BST).
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Yes, the two goals were incredibly well-worked by the team, but my moment of the match comes with the last play of the game. Cuthbert saw the ball drop to her feet just outside the 18 and fired a low shot towards net. Struck with pace, the ball found the gloves of MacIver like a magnet. After such a strong performance, the contest poetically ended with a MacIver save.
1. Sandy MacIver
Against Chelsea, the 22-year-old showed why she was included in Phil Neville’s most recent 30-player roster. MacIver was constantly tested in net, but made several game-altering saves. She also was deadly with her feet. Multiple times she sent passes to Raso on the wing, sparking Everton’s counter-attack. A modern goalkeeper — one who can make saves and play out of the back — MacIver was excellent in the cup win, and is undoubtedly one of the most vital members of this Everton squad.
2. Lucy Graham
As club captain, Graham imposes her will in the midfield and on the attack. She works tirelessly off the ball, breaking up play on the defensive end. Moving forward, Graham has the play-making abilities of someone you want dictating your midfield; she pulls the strings and runs the show in the middle of the park for the Toffees. Graham sent a perfectly weighted pass to Raso, starting the build up to the second goal. She also showed her finishing touch in front of net, helping Everton erase a 1–0 deficit.
3. Hayley Raso
There is nothing as enjoyable as watching Raso go to work on the wing. Her searing pace forces defenders to back off, opening up advantageous portions of the pitch. She got the better of Mjelde several times, and had it not been for some superb defending from Millie Bright, Raso might have scored two. She assisted on the game-winning goal, picking out Gauvin in the box, and helped the defensive effort late in the affair to help guide Everton to an unbelievable win.
Everton (4-2-3-1): 1-Sandy MacIver; 2-Ingrid Moe Wold, 3-Danielle Turner, 20-Megan Finnigan, 22-Rikke Sevecke; 8-Izzy Christiansen, 13-Abbey-Leigh Stringer, 14-Nicoline Sørensen, 16-Hayley Raso, 17-Lucy Graham (c); 10-Simone Magill
Substitutes: 19-Valérie Gauvin for Magill 45, 12-Damaris Egurrola for Stringer 45, 7-Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah 79
Unused Substitutes: 15-Molly Pike, 21-Maéva Clémaron, 23-Tinja-Riikka Korpela, 30-Poppy Pattinson
Goals: Graham 39, Gauvin 63
Bookings: Christiansen 50
Chelsea (3-4-3): 30-Ann-Katrin Berger; 4-Millie Bright (c), 18-Maren Mjelde, 25-Jonna Andersson; 5-Sophie Ingle, 7-Jessica Carter, 10-Ji So-yun, 22-Erin Cuthbert; 14-Fran Kirby, 20-Sam Kerr, 23-Pernille Harder
Substitutes: 8-Melanie Leupolz for Ji 64, 11-Guro Reiten for Ingle 73, 9-Bethany England for Kerr 73, 21-Niamh Charles for Carter 82
Substitutes not used: 2-Maria Thorisdottir, 3-Hannah Blundell, 17-Jessie Fleming, 24-Drew Spence, 28-Carly Telford
Goals: Cuthbert 4