In what was United’s first game since Arsenal made a record bid for Alessia Russo, the Reds knew that Chelsea’s stiff game against Tottenham could hand them an advantage in the title race. But fifth-placed Everton were not going to be pushovers, especially considering their league form over the last few weeks.
Skinner has been criticised for his tendency to not rotate his side enough, but United remained largely unchanged from their league game against Reading. The front four of Ella Toone, Russo, Lucia Garcia and Leah Galton started, with Nikita Parris settling for a spot on the bench. Behind them, Skinner with the tried at tested unit which involves Mary Earps, Ona Batlle, Millie Turner, Maya le Tissier, Hannah Blundell, Hayley Ladd and captain Katie Zelem.
The game started after a one-minute silence to pay tribute to the victims of the Munich Air Disaster but the Reds started slowly. Everton won two corners in a row and the second one saw Rikke Sevecke head just wide of Earps’ goal. Despite the missed chance, Everton oozed confidence when they were on the ball and they were dominating possession, not allowing United too much time on the ball.
But the Toffees couldn’t make too much of the possession in the final third, as they lacked a final ball and this meant that there wasn’t much goalmouth action in the first 30 minutes of the game. As United began to keep hold of more possession from around the half hour mark, Garcia smacked the woodwork after a brilliant passage of play from the Reds. Toone had set up Garcia after United had played through Everton’s midfield but Garcia just couldn’t guide it home.
Two minutes later, Courtney Brosnan plucked Toone’s cross and made sure that it didn’t land on Zelem’s feet. United’s dominance only increased as Ladd had a shot go wide a minute later.
With the Toffees struggling to cross their own half, Russo pulled a shot wide from seven yards out after a good cross by Batlle. It was arguably United’s best chance of the half and one of the best chances in the game as a whole.
Two minutes into the second half, it was Toone who struck the post. After being set up by Galton down the left, Toone’s effort had beaten Brosnan well but United simply lacked the final touch once again.
Blundell, who was heavily involved in the Toone chance, had a chance for herself soon. After finding herself isolated on the left by Garcia, the United left-back used her weaker right-foot to curl a shot right at Brosnan.
The Everton keeper was called into action again in the 65th minute, as Zelem had a volley tipped over after Batlle had created another quality chance from her right side. As the one-sided nature of the game increased, Ladd struck wide of the goal from the edge of the box.
Everton came alive soon enough though, as Le Tissier’s poor pass led to Jess Park picking it up in the United final third. Instead of taking a shot, the Manchester City loanee delayed the shot and was only given a tight angle by Earps as she shot wide. United grew desperate at the last stages of the tie, as a crossing game from wide areas ensued but Everton kept their attempts away and earned a crucial point.
Chelsea’s 3-2 win over Spurs means that United are back down to second in the WSL table, two points behind the Blues, with a game away to Spurs fast approaching.