Perhaps it was the chill in the air, but something felt different as Everton Women took the pitch against Leicester City in the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup Group Stage Wednesday night. After suffering a 5–1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City on Oct. 13, which led to the departure of then-manager Willie Kirk, the Toffees regrouped on a frigid evening in Staffordshire to defeat the Foxes, 3–1.
In his first game as head coach of Everton FC, Frenchman Jean-Luc Vasseur saw his team run to a comprehensive win versus one of the division’s weaker sides — Leicester is currently last in the league table with zero wins, zero points and a league-worst minus-11 goal differential.
Fans also caught a potential glimpse of what Vasseur’s preferred starting XI might look like moving forward; the former Olympique Lyonnais manager takes charge of his first league fixture on Saturday versus Brighton & Hove Albion.
One of the reasons Kirk lost the job was his inability to commit to a consistent lineup, which made it difficult for the players to build chemistry. Injuries certainly hampered Kirk’s ability to pick a consistent lineup, but his tactics were erratic and often led to dismal defensive performances.
Vasseur opted for a traditional 4-3-3 to balance a talented attack with a stingy defense. Here was his lineup for the evening: Sandy MacIver; Danielle Turner, Rikke Sevecke, Gabby George, Nathalie Björn; Hanna Bennison, Aurora Galli, Izzy Christiansen; Toni Duggan, Kenza Dali, Anna Anvegård.
He later brought on Simone Magill, Claire Emslie, Valérie Gauvin, Lucy Graham and Leonie Maier.
Anvegård opened the scoring for the visitors via a deflection in the second minute. Emslie knocked the ball inside to Anvegård, who drove the center of the 18, fired a shot and received a fortunate redirect that dipped up and over Leicester goalkeeper Demi Lambourne.
On the stroke of halftime, Christiansen doubled Everton’s lead with a stunning left-footed shot from the top of the 18. There was nothing Lambourne could do about the curling attempt. Christiansen, who captained the team, previously worked with Vasseur at Lyon and commented last week on how the players must respond to the new manager.
“It’s really important that we buy into what the new manager wants us to do because he will have his processes, his vision on what he wants Everton Women to look like,” she said.
Ashleigh Plumptre cut the deficit in half for the Foxes in the 82’, but second-half substitute Valérie Gauvin put the Toffees back up by two five minutes later with a towering header.
Wednesday night’s win won’t qualify Everton for the Champions League, but the importance of starting on a positive note cannot be overstated. Ownership hired Vasseur to help the Merseyside outfit take the next step as a team, and Wednesday’s performance was a step in the right direction.
“It’s always better to start with a win,” Vasseur said after his first win in blue. “I am very happy and it’s a good start. There is a lot of talent in the squad, and we’ve got a good base to work from.”