Blues were frustrated in their opening game of the 2019/20 season as they were beaten 1-0 at home to Everton. Despite dominating possession and spending most of the game camped in Everton’s half, Blues were unable to create any clear cut chances while the visitors generated shots through counter attacks and set pieces.
Blues full backs were pushed high and wide in possession, which left central defenders Rebecca Holloway and Kerys Harrop exposed to Everton’s pacey front line. Everton’s forwards made runs down the side of Blues’ centre backs and cut the ball back to team mates who had found space in the box on numerous occasions. In the 39th minute, it was left back Danielle Turner who exploited the space vacated by Blues right back Adrienne Jordan, the cut back fell to Simone Magill but her shot was straight at Hannah Hampton. Blues did not heed this warning, and at the start of the second half they were punished as Everton striker Hannah Cain made a run into the channel, her pullback was deflected into the net by Harrop.
The vulnerability of Blues backline was exacerbated by the struggles of their midfield. Lucy Staniforth and Chloe Arthur repeatedly turned the ball over in central areas and were caught too far forward when Everton did break on the counter. In order for this system to succeed, Blues’ midfielders will need to show more composure in possession and be more disciplined without the ball.
The midfield’s inability to pass the ball upfield prompted Blues to progress the ball into the final third through their full backs. Adrienne Jordan’s ball carrying from right back and Sarah Mayling’s link up play down the left led to a number of Blues chances as they enjoyed their best passage of play in the first half. Mayling found space on the left after combining with Abbi Grant in the 30th minute and picked out Claudia Walker with her cross, but her near post effort was deflected wide.
Brianna Visalli burst into the box on multiple occasions in what was a promising debut for the American. She pressed Everton’s backline relentlessly and looked to move the ball forwards every time she did get on the ball. Blues will need to get the ball to Visalli in the final third more often if they are to create more high quality chances in future matches.
Staniforth’s set piece deliveries caused some panic in the Everton box on a couple of occasions. A 26th minute corner led to a goalmouth scramble, with Abbi Grant eventually volleying over the bar and just before half time, a wide free kick whipped in by Staniforth flashed across the face of the Everton goal but no one could get a touch to divert it goalwards.
Blues also came close through long range efforts from Staniforth and Arthur. Staniforth’s attempt in the 35th minute was tipped over the bar by Everton keeper Tinja-Riika Korpela, while Arthur’s effort after an hour hit the post. Walker, Visalli and Connie Scofield also took shots from outside the box during the game when it seemed like better options were available.
While it is very early in the season, this is a worrying result for Blues against one of the worst teams in the league last season. Everton were compact in defence, restricting Blues to long range efforts and effective on the counter attack, perfectly exploiting Blues’ weaknesses. Blues lack of pace at the back and ineffective midfield are clear issues that will be punished even more by better teams, so Tejedor will be thankful that they do not play any of the big three until October 12th when they travel to play Man City. The Blues manager will hope to iron out any tactical issues and get some points on the board in winnable games against West Ham (away) and Reading (home) in the coming weeks.