Women's Match Report: Everton 1 United 0
Manchester United Women fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Everton in our final Continental League Cup group match of the campaign.
Casey Stoney’s side headed into the game knowing we couldn't qualify for the next round of the competition, having previously lost to Liverpool and beaten Manchester City on penalties in the four-team group.
On Wednesday night, despite United dominating the game for large periods, it was the hosts who took all three points. Against the run of play, Lucy Graham scored the winner for Everton on 73 minutes.
Following our win against Reading in the WSL at the weekend, the Reds opted to make five changes to the starting XI. Lotta Okvist, Abbie McManus, Lucy Staniforth, Jane Ross and Katie Zelem came in for Amy Turner, Kirsty Smith, Ella Toone, Kirsty Hanson and Tobin Heath.
Kick-off on Merseyside was delayed by 20 minutes due to an issue with one of the goalposts, but once we eventually got going both teams were very much up for it, with high pressure and tackles dominating the opening minutes.
The first big chance of the game came after just seven minutes. Leah Galton bombed down the left and picked Jane Ross out inside the box, but her shot was blocked and went out for a corner. A subsequent handball claim from the Reds was then waved away by the referee.
On 18 minutes, a Katie Zelem free-kick was flicked on by Millie Turner but the header went inches away from the top corner. Ona Batlle then had a shot from range saved.
The Reds certainly enjoyed the best of opening half-hour and Jess Sigsworth soon dribbled her way into the box before firing towards goal. However, her shot from an acute angle went straight at the goalkeeper and was parried for a corner kick.
Three minutes later, after a moment of pin-ball in the area, Millie Turner came close to putting United in front, but her half-volleyed effort was saved. Hayley Ladd also fired towards goal in first-half stoppage time, yet her effort was well saved.
Despite United applying much of the pressure throughout the half, the Reds went into the break still searching for an opener.
United started the second half on the front foot and found the net after 51 minutes through Jane Ross’s wonderful strike. Unfortunately, the referee had blown for a foul in the build-up and the goal did not count.
As she looked for the opener, Stoney made her first change of the evening when Kirsty Hanson came on for Leah Galton on 54 minutes. After the substitution, Sigsworth made a run down the right and put in a low cross, but it did not find substitute Hanson at the back stick. That was Sigsworth's last piece of action as she was replaced by Tobin Heath, the WSL Player of the Month for November, on the hour mark. Ella Toone was also withdrawn for Jackie Groenen with 30 minutes to go.
As we neared the end of proceedings at Walton Hall Park, the Toffees managed to get the ball in the net, but the goal did not stand due to a foul on Hanson before it crossed the line.
Despite that, three minutes later, the hosts managed to grab the only strike of the night. Graham was found unmarked in the box, controlled the ball excellently and fired it low past Mary Earps, to put Willie Kirk's side ahead.
United looked for an immediate response when Ivana Fuso was introduced for her debut in place of Jane Ross. Fellow substitute Toone then had a big chance to level things up straight away, but an Everton defender got in the way of our no.7's strike.
As we ticked closer to full-time, United really piled the pressure on and Heath almost equalised for the Reds only to be denied by Sandy MacIver in the home net. United earned corner after corner in the final moments, but could not find a finish from the repeated crosses.
In the last minute, Fuso showed her quality with a brilliant turn. Unfortunately, the shot did not match the skill and it resulted in a loose effort that went straight at the keeper. The Reds continued to look for the equaliser, but it was not to be in Liverpool, and Everton ran out 1-0 winners.
UNITED: Earps; Battle, McManus, M. Turner, Okvist; Zelem (c), Ladd, Groenen (Toone 60); Sigsworth (Heath 60), Ross (Fuso 74), Galton (Hanson 54)
Substitutes not used: Bentley, A. Turner, Smith
Everton: Maciver; Wold (Pattinson 60), Finnigan, Egurrola, Turner (Clinton 86); Clemaron (Raso 46), Stringer, Christansen, Graham; Sorensen (Boye-Hlorkah 69), Magill (Pike 46)
Substitutes not used: Pedersen
Referee: Ed Duckworth