From Walton Hall Park - Manchester United made it five wins from five at the start of the WSL season with an impressive 3-0 away win over Everton, who have played well in the early weeks of the campaign.
Marc Skinner’s side scored in the first 15 minutes of each half through Nikita Parris and Leah Galton respectively, while a thoroughly excellent Hayley Ladd scored a splendid third with just over 20 minutes left to play. Everton did have chances, but this was a fifth straight WSL clean sheet for Mary Earps.
Only a few minutes were on the clock when the visitors carved out the first clear chance of the afternoon. Maya Le Tissier sent a raking ball forward down the right for Lucia Garcia to race on to. She crossed for Ella Toone, but Courtney Brosnan palmed the shot over the bar.
The early goal came from good United pressing as they blocked Everton in. Ladd won it back deep in the home side’s half, with Katie Zelem quickly floating a high cross into the box. Galton’s knock down, beating Brosnan and Megan Finnigan to the ball, made it a tap-in for Parris.
The Toffees hadn’t created much by then, although almost struck straight back when Gabby George broke free down the left and forced Earps into a smart save. It proceeded to be a little more even after that and a combination of Maya Le Tissier and Maria Thorisdottir stopped Aggie Beever-Jones from equalising at close-range.
United almost had a second straight after half-time, but Finnigan got back just in time to block Toone’s goalbound effort after a one-two with Parris.
The visitors, having failed to kill of this game when in possession of a 1-0 lead season, did get the crucial second this time. Galton had been quiet after her early assist but showcased the best side of herself when she ran at the Everton defence, jinked a few times and poked the ball into the corner.
Going two behind seemed to kill the Everton spirit that had been there in the first half. The third United goal was a thing of beauty, with Ladd briefly ditching her defensive midfield role to sweep a first time effort into the top corner from the edge of the box after it cannoned into her path.
Everton should have pulled one back when substitute Karen Holmgard was bearing down on goal, but her finish lacked power and Earps' outstretched left boot kept the ball out of the net.
1. Everton (3-4-3)
GK: Courtney Brosnan - 4/10 - Should have commanded the situation better as United scored the opener.
CB: Megan Finnigan - 6/10 - Outjumped by Galton for the early breakthrough goal, although it should have been Brosnan's ball to claim. Made a crucial block soon after half-time.
CB: Rikke Sevecke - 5/10 - Facing a striker as mobile as Parris made her job quite difficult.
CB: Katrine Veje - 6/10 - Had plenty of the ball and seemed to use it well at times to get Everton playing.
RM: Lucy Graham - 5/10 - Had to do more defending than attacking.
CM: Nathalie Bjorn - 5/10 - Lacked the agile mobility to compete with Toone, as well as Parris when the latter dropped deep.
CM: Clare Wheeler - 6/10 - Carried the ball well a few times.
LM: Gabby George (c) - 6/10 - Not always easy to get forward but forced Earps into a decent saves. Had initially started on the right, but Garcia got less joy when she swapped onto the left early.
RF: Jess Park - 5/10 - Will be disappointed she couldn't take full advantage of stand-in full-back Thorisdottir.
ST: Hanna Bennison - 5/10 - Struggled to get involved and had to come deep to try and get the ball. Withdrawn at half-time.
LF: Aggie Beever-Jones - 5/10 - Had one of Everton's better first half chances but didn't return for he second. Didn't ask enough questions.
SUB: Katja Snoeijs (46' for Beever-Jones) - 5/10
SUB: Izzy Christiansen (46' Bennison) - 5/10
SUB: Elise Stenevik (61' for George) - 5/10
SUB: Karen Holmgard (61' for Graham) - 6/10
SUB: Aurora Galli (69' for Finnigan) - 5/10
Manager: Brian Sorensen - 5/10 - His team had their moments but weren't clinical enough when it counted. Made double changes at half-time and and at 2-0 that didn't alter the game in Everton's favour.
2. Man Utd (4-3-3)
GK: Mary Earps - 7/10 - Made a good save straight after United took the lead. Talked her team through the game as always.
RB: Hannah Blundell - 6/10 - Showed her versatility by swapping sides from her usual role on the left.
CB: Maya Le Tissier - 7/10 - Again showcased a range of passing as some sort of deep-lying play-maker. Made good blocks when needed.
CB: Millie Turner - 6/10 - Composed on the ball under pressure.
LB: Maria Thorisdottir - 6/10 - Looked a little more comfortable over on the left after switching from the right, but still a fish out of water at full-back.
CM: Katie Zelem (c) - 7/10 - Recycled possession well and was often trying to set her team on the attack with forward passes.
CM: Hayley Ladd - 9/10 - Battled in midfield and her tenacious ball-winning proved a huge asset. A tackle created the first, she assisted the second and then scored the marvellous third.
AM: Ella Toone - 6/10 - Had a couple of chances to score. Still creative.
RW: Lucia Garcia - 6/10 - Her pace created an early chance but she was was quiet for much of the game. Got a fortuitous assist for the third.
ST: Nikita Parris - 8/10 - On the scoresheet in the WSL for the second game in a row. Her movement always had Everton defenders thinking.
LW: Leah Galton - 8/10 - Not used to getting assists with her head but set up the first that way. Started the second half livelier and got a goal of her own to put her team clear.
SUB: Lucy Staniforth (71' for Toone) - 6/10
SUB: Alessia Russo (71' for Garcia) - 6/10
SUB: Martha Thomas (81' for Blundell) - N/A
SUB: Vilde Boe Risa (86' for Parris) - N/A
SUB: Aissatou Tounkara (86' for Le Tissier) - N/A
Manager: Marc Skinner - 9/10 - Kept faith with Parris after opting not to gamble with Russo's fitness and it paid off. A few tweaks to the usual look of his team from the start also seemed to have an impact.