Everton 2-1 Chelsea
By Ben Gilby
Everton produced a performance of real character to come back from a disastrous opening ten minutes to gain an impressive win over Chelsea at a sunny if cold Goodison Park.
The visitors couldn’t have come out of the blocks quicker. Within two minutes they created their first opportunity. Erin Cuthbert played in Sam Kerr down the left. The Australian’s cross towards Pernille Harder was snaffled by Toffees keeper Sandy MacIver just in time.
The reigning FAWSL champions were noticeably pacier – playing crisp rapid fire football the Everton struggled to contain. They even rushed to get throw-ins taken in order to press the hosts further.
It took just five minutes for Chelsea to turn the pressure into a goal. Sophie Ingle found Jess Carter whose ball in from the left found Cuthbert who directed it to the right of MacIver and into the net.
Chelsea threatened to run riot and four further opportunities followed over the next seven minutes. First, Millie Bright combined with Fran Kirby, who in turn fed Ji. The South Korean’s effort from the right was pushed away by McIver for a corner. Cuthbert’s flag kick swung in and Kirby’s header was cleared off the line with Bright’s follow up blocked and smashed clear. The ball just kept coming back though and Harder’s cross to Cuthbert saw the Scot head over.
Ji, revelling in a free role which saw her pop up all over the pitch then fed Kerr. Her teasing ball was fumbled by MacIver before another desperate clearance.
It took twenty minutes for Everton to settle, and they had the benefit of only conceding once in Chelsea’s fast start. Slowly the Merseysiders began to mould themselves into a defensive unit and were able to get key attacker Hayley Raso into the game more. The influence of the Australian was at the heart of everything good that Everton did.
Lucy Graham played in the Matilda with the blue hair ribbon on the left. Raso cut inside, left Maren Mjelde for dead and shot narrowly wide.
Shortly afterwards Raso beat Mjelde again but no-one could get on the end of her ball across the box.
The magician Ji weaved her creative spell once more on the 27th minute mark, combining with Harder and Kirby with the Lioness finding Cuthbert, but the former Glasgow City star’s effort was smothered by MacIver.
With five minutes of the half left, Everton were rewarded for their efforts in getting up off the canvas. Izzy Christiansen laid the ball off for Nicoline Sorensen who in turn played in Ingrid Moe Wold. The Norwegian international’s cross was met by a diving header from Lucy Graham which flew past the dive of Ann-Katrin Berger and it was 1-1.
The Toffees could have taken the lead three minutes later when Graham found Raso who chested the ball past the on-rushing Berger and got a shot in on target before Jess Carter scrambled clear.
The final opportunities of the half fell Chelsea’s way, but Moe Wold got across well to deny Kirby from Kerr’s cross and Harder headed over Kirby’s cross. It was tantalisingly poised at 1-1 at the break.
Chelsea missed several further chances at the start of the second half. Eight minutes into the period, Pernille Harder cut in from the left and let fly a vicious shot which a diving Sandy MacIver pushed away for a corner. Sam Kerr then danced past the defence and played in a ball but it was behind Harder. The Londoners would rue all of these many missed opportunities.
Everton pushed forwards on the hour mark with Hayley Raso prominent once more. The Brisbane born winger broke down the left and offered a weak shot which Ann-Katrin Berger pushed away for a corner which was cleared.
The next major incident involved referee Simon Mather who managed to bring down Sam Kerr mid-run as the pair’s paths collided. Kerr was reduced to hobbling momentarily, but there was no long term damage done.
Raso created havoc again down the left and it was her inch perfect cross on sixty-three minutes that was headed in by French international Valerie Gauvin to give Everton the lead.
For all their star studded forward line, Chelsea offered little in the way of quality in their search of getting an equaliser. Maren Mjelde’s cross was side-footed goal wards by Harder, but MacIver gathered. Emma Hayes’ side’s final opportunity fell to Guru Reiten, but the Norwegian’s shot curled outside the left hand post, and Everton were home and hosed.
The Toffees will be overjoyed with this victory and will fancy their chances of reaching Wembley at the end of October when they face either Birmingham City or Brighton & Hove Albion in the midweek semi-final. For Chelsea, this was a performance that left more questions than answers – although they will point to a significantly disrupted build-up with many of their stars on European Championship Qualifying duty over the past ten days or so – but the fact remains this was a game they would have expected to win.
Teams: EVERTON: MacIver, Moe Wold, Turner, Sevecke, Stringer, Finnigan, Christiansen, Raso, Graham, Sorensen, Magill. Substitutes: Karpela (GK), Boye-Hlorkah, Egurrola, Pike, Clemaron, Gauvin, Pattinson.
Scorers: Graham 40, Gauvin 63.
CHELSEA: Berger, Andersson, Bright, Carter, Cuthbert, Ingle, Ji, Mjelde, Kerr, Kirby, Harder. Substitutes: Telford (GK), Thorisdottir, Blundell, Leupolz, England, Reiten, J. Fleming, Charles, Spence.
Scorers: Cuthbert 5.
Referee: Simon Mather.