Report: Blues Women 0 Everton Ladies 1
An own goal within a minute of the second-half starting condemned Blues to defeat in a close Barclays FA WSL opener.
Captain Kerys Harrop’s attempt to cut out Hannah Cain’s low drive across goal nestled inside Hannah Hampton’s near post and Blues could not muster a fightback despite plenty of moments of promise.
Manager Marta Tejedor handed WSL debuts to no fewer than five players with Rebecca Holloway, Brianna Visalli, Abbi Grant, Adrienne Jordan and Lucy Whipp starting the curtain raiser.
Jordan provided an early flash of inspiration, driving forward to find Claudia Walker four minutes in but the frontrunner’s first-time shot was straight at keeper Tinja-Rikka Korpela.
Aside from that Everton enjoyed a bright start with Megan Finnigan and Lucy Graham heading on target floated free-kicks, keeping Hampton on her toes.
Blues gradually began to get on the ball after 15 minutes with Visalli a central figure, latching on to Sarah Mayling’s nudge into the left corner of the box before jinking past her marker and firing at Korpela.
Lucy Staniforth’s corner had to be swatted away from danger by Korpela 27 minutes in, while Visalli’s floated lob from 20 yards was narrowly too high moments later.
The hosts continued to probe and came increasingly closer to breaking the deadlock when Walker’s near-post prod from a Mayling cross was deflected wide by Finnigan.
Staniforth then tried to catch out Korpela with an effort similar to Visalli’s, forcing a last-ditch push over and Grant’s flicked header on the run dropped just wide of the near post from a deep driven Visalli delivery.
Everton had been pinned back for some time but Hampton was called upon to thwart Simone Magill from point-blank range four minutes before half-time with a superb reaction stop.
There was still time for Staniforth to go agonisingly close prior to the whistle, arcing in a whipped free-kick from the left that was dummied by Harrop before rolling marginally beyond the far post.
Blues appeared rocked after the sucker punch 30 seconds after the restart after Everton broke on them down the left, the unfortunate Harrop turning the ball into her own net.
Everton them might have added to the tally as Blues were reeling - Molly Pike side-footed narrowly wide when free eight yards out and Gabrilelle George headed past the far post from Chloe Kelly’s inviting corner.
Much like the first half it took Blues 15 minutes to click properly but once they got going the openings began to flow once more.
Chloe Arthur’s brilliant curling 25-yard effort beat Korpela but not her right post, while searching crosses from Grant and Mayling came to nothing as pressure built.
Walker’s shot was charged down with 14 minutes to go following neat approach play from Grant and substitute Rachel Williams, back from long-term injury.
Harrop was denied by Graham’s block in front of the line and Williams went within a whisker of converting from back-to-back Staniforth corners, while Grant’s last contribution was to test Korpela’s concentration with an instinctive snap effort five minutes from time.
There was no final flurry, though, as Everton efficiently managed the closing stages.
Blues: Hampton, Arthur, Harrop, Holloway, Visalli (Scofield 74), Grant (Scott 88), Jordan, Staniforth, Whipp (Williams 56), Mayling, Walker.
Substitutes (not used): Logan, Gregory, Rabjohn, Brooks).
Bookings: Harrop (22), Grant (83)
Everton: Korpela, Turner, George, Kaagman (Hughes 72), Magill, Kelly, Morgan (Van Es 90+2), Pike, Cain (Hinds 87), Graham, Finnigan.
Substitutes (not used): Brougham, Clemaron, Bryson, Levell.
Goal: Harrop (46)
Bookings: Morgan (38)
Referee: Elliott Swallow