Goals by Lucy Graham and Valérie Gauvin at the weekend saw Everton defeat 2019/20 champions Chelsea. In an incredible win, Everton displayed strong counter-attack play, disruptive midfield energy and superb defending led by goalkeeper Sandy MacIver.
Now in the closing stages of the competition — which was postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic — four teams remain, all of which compete in the WSL. Arsenal face Manchester City in the first semi-final, with a Blues’ battle taking place in the second match.
While Birmingham have struggled at the dawn of the domestic campaign — two losses out of two — Everton will need to bring the same intensity that helped eliminate league giants Chelsea.
To start the WSL season, these two sides could not paint different pictures. Everton are 3–0 in all competitions to start the 2020/21 season, with wins against Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea highlighting the strength of the Toffees and the aspirations of the club.
️ | “We want to go on to win trophies at this club. Sunday was just a big step and hopefully we can go all the way.”— Everton Women (@EvertonWomen) September 28, 2020
Nicoline Sørensen is targeting cup glory in her maiden season with #EFC #WomensFACup
Birmingham, on the other hand, lost their opening fixture 2–0 to Brighton & Hove Albion and saw a two-goal lead evaporate in an eventual 5–2 loss to Manchester United in week two. A revenge match against Brighton in the FA Cup, however, certainly does wonders in elevating the team’s confidence.
In three games, Everton have scored seven goals and conceded one (plus-six goal differential), while Birmingham have a dismal minus-five measure. Everton also sit second in the table with six points, while Birmingham narrowly miss out on bottom of the league due to goals conceded.
With a healthy dose of summer-signings, Willie Kirk has seen new players seamlessly integrate with the established core of the team, a process that has been instrumental in Everton’s early-season success.
Birmingham were fortunate last season to avoid relegation, finishing ahead of Liverpool on a points-per-game basis. To address the shortcomings of a squad that nearly dropped to the Championship last campaign, Birmingham have heavily recruited this summer — notably signing Rachel Corsie on loan from the Utah Royals of the NWSL. The Scottish international was brought in to stabilize a porous defense that conceded 23 times last season.
In addition to players like Izzy Christiansen, Gauvin and Raso, the unsung heroes of Everton’s 2–1 wonder-win against Chelsea were fullbacks Danielle Turner and Ingrid Moe Wold. Both did marvelously at curtailing any forward motion of Chelsea and had the unenviable task of trying to limit the involvement of players like Erin Cuthbert, Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder. Reliability and cover on the wings allowed Everton to move the ball up the pitch, which in turn permitted players like Raso, Graham and Nicoline Sørensen to run at defenses.
Birmingham have had three different goal-scorers in all competitions this season — Mollie Green, Sarah Mayling and Claudia Walker. In midfield, look for captain Christie Murray to pull the strings and push her team forward. Also of note, of the team that defeated Brighton this past Sunday, Birmingham have several familiar faces. Forward Lucy Whipp played for the Toffees during the 2013/14 season, making 15 appearances and scoring once, while defender Georgia Brougham is currently on loan from the Toffees. Green (20 games in the 2017/18 season, scoring three) and Walker (54 games from 2015-2019, scoring 17) also have a history with Everton.
The last time these two sides played was almost a year ago, meeting in the group stage of the Women’s FA League Cup — a 1-0 Birmingham win. That one-goal match followed an identical scoreline only a few weeks prior, as the two teams met on September 8, 2019, but this time Everton would get the 1-0 victory. Both games played last September were hosted at Damson Park. The two sides were scheduled to play at Goodison on March 29, 2020, a game that was evidently cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic. With two revamped rosters, Everton will look to dominate early and earn the opportunity to play at Wembley.
Competition: FA Women’s Cup Semi-finals
Date and start time: Wednesday, September 30th at 2:15 p.m. ET / 7:15 p.m. BST
Stadium: Damson Park, Solihull, West Midlands, England, United Kingdom
Capacity: 5,500 (behind closed doors)
How to Watch/Listen
TV & Radio: BBC Four
Match Centre: Everton FC website
Live stream: BBC iPlayer