Manchester City made it five consecutive WSL wins by beating Everton at Walton Hall Park on Saturday afternoon, putting pressure on Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal ahead of them.
Khadija Shaw continued her excellent start to the season with the decisive City goal early in the second half, after Everton defender Rikke Sevecke had cancelled out Julie Blakstad's opener.
Emily Ramsey had made an incredible save with just 25 seconds played. The Everton goalkeeper on loan from Manchester United denied Chloe Kelly a certain goal from close range at the far post after good work down the left from Laura Coombs and Shaw.
City were dominant, particularly on their left flank. But there was weakness when Yui Hasegawa was caught on the ball a couple of times early on. One of those led Aurora Galli to whistle the ball just past the post with Everton’s first meaningful attack.
The tightest of offside calls chalked off a would-be opener from Shaw, while Blakstad probably should have done better in acres of space when cutting in from the left. But Everton had certainly grown into the game by the time City broke the deadlock half an hour in.
Blakstad’s goal was clinical from the visitors. Shaw beat the attempted offside trap to latch onto Leila Ouahabi’s through ball, opting to square to Blakstad to the right for an easy finish.
City would have hoped to pull away after that but were undone by a set-piece in the closing stages of the first half when they failed to clear a corner and Sevecke bundled the ball in from close range.
But Sevecke was having major trouble with Shaw going the other way. She had lost the City star a couple of times in the first half and was chasing shadows again straight after half-time when Shaw drove at the Everton defence – the resultant low shot was well saved by Ramsey.
City were back in front soon after, though. Galli gave it away cheaply on the edge of the Everton penalty area, leading Coombs to try her luck. That speculative shot hit the post, but Shaw reacted quicker than the defenders around her to turn in the rebound.
Everton again tried to fight back as they had done after going 1-0 down. But, somehow, City didn’t get a third goal in a bizarre melee at the hour mark. First, Sevecke cleared one off the line, before Ramsey got away with a clanger when she dropped the ball onto the post. Kelly’s acrobatic attempt sent the ball back goalward, with Blakstad heading onto the bar from a yard out.
Half-time substitute Aggie Beever-Jones was making a really positive impact for Everton and might have thought she could have better with a chance to equalise, striking into the side netting.
As the game wore on into the final stages, City were generally in control and created more chances that could have extended their lead. Yet warning signs from Everton persisted until the end and Ouahabi got round on the cover excellently to see off a chance for sub Gio Queiroz. Toffees skipper Lucy Graham also should have done better when she missed the target trying to find the corner.
Everton vs Man City WSL player ratings
1. Everton (3-4-3)
GK: Emily Ramsey - 7/10 - Made an outstanding save right at the start and another couple of decent stops in the second half. Stood little chance with the goals that went in.
CB: Megan Finnigan - 6/10 - Covered well on the right, particularly considering that was where City looked most dangerous.
CB: Rikke Sevecke - 6/10 - Had a real rollercoaster game. Looked a distant second best against Shaw, especially when trying to play the striker offside. But scored a goal of her own and also cleared one off the line.
CB: Gabby George - 7/10 - Played deeper after excelling at wing-back recently. Still made a nuisance of herself getting forward, particular at the corner from which the Toffees equalised.
RM: Lucy Graham (c) - 6/10 - Had to do a lot of defending and led by example. Missed the target with a decent chance late on.
CM: Nathalie Bjorn - 6/10 - Provided decent defensive protection but booked in the first half. Somewhat limited on the ball.
CM: Aurora Galli - 5/10 - Good in flashes when she was able to nick the ball and drive forward. Gave it away cheaply right before City retook the lead.
LM: Elise Stenevik - 6/10 - Provided the corner for Everton to get their equaliser. Not as much impact in open play.
RF: Katja Snoeijs - 5/10 - Was always going to have a tough time.
ST: Karen Holmgaard - 5/10 - Worked hard but struggled for impact.
LF: Hanna Bennison - 4/10 - Disappointingly anonymous.
SUB: Aggie Beever-Jones (46' for Holmgaard) - 8/10
SUB: Gio Queiroz (66' for Bennison) - 6/10
SUB: Clare Wheeler (66' for Galli) - 6/10
SUB: Leonie Maier (76' for Stenevik) - 6/10
Manager: Brian Sorensen - 7/10 - Bringing on Beever-Jones was a positive move that made an impact. Will be disappointed about his team's part in the decisive City goal.
2. Man City (4-3-3)
GK: Sandy MacIver - 5/10 - Didn't cover herself in glory against her former club, especially when Everton equalised from a corner within her reach. A couple of hariy moments overall.
RB: Kerstin Casparij - 6/10 - Solid defensive performance that made it difficult for Everton to do much down their left flank.
CB: Laia Aleixandri - 7/10 - Positioned herself well and always seemed alert to danger when Everton got forward in open play.
CB: Esme Morgan (c) - 6/10 - Not the most commanding as there were a few occasions when Everton threatened to get beyond her. Hardly gave the ball away when in possession.
LB: Leila Ouahabi - 8/10 - Attacked with intent and made the breakthrough goal with a defence splitting pass. A big defensive intervention denied Everton a potential equaliser late on.
CM: Yui Hasegawa - 6/10 - Caught on the ball more than once early on. Improved after that and generally neat and tidy.
CM: Deyna Castellanos - 6/10 - Showed nimble feet in tight spaces. Skewed a decent chance wide at 1-1.
CM: Laura Coombs - 7/10 - Linked up well with Blakstad early on. Her striking the post led to the second goal.
RW: Chloe Kelly - 7/10 - Almost scored within 30 seconds and involved in some good City moments throughout.
ST: Khadija Shaw - 9/10 - Her movement, speed and strength was a clear threat straightaway. Had a goal ruled out but assisted the opener, then scored City's second and had other chances.
LW: Julie Blakstad - 8/10 - Swapped between the flanks and was effective on both sides. Converted an easy tap-in and was a constant threat.
SUB: Mary Fowler (82' for Coombs) - N/A
Manager: Gareth Taylor - 7/10 - Didn't feel the need to mess with his team for most of this game. Rewarded for his original team selection.