Sport Editor Lucy Blitz reports from Villa Park as Aston Villa Women stumble against Everton in Sunday’s WSL clash
Aston Villa were the subject of a 2-1 defeat against Everton on Sunday, ending their fine run of success across recent fixtures.
With the stage of Villa Park behind them, hosts Villa were on the hunt for their first home win of the WSL season, following victories away to Bristol City and West Ham. Everton had been less fortunate in their previous outings, having not won a match since their 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the Merseyside derby last month.
Villa manager Carla Ward opted for a powerful starting eleven, with seven changes from Wednesday evening’s 7-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers in the Continental Cup.
With the home side getting things underway, Everton’s Katja Snoeijs offered the game’s first shot on target, only to meet the safe gloves of Villa’s Daphne Van Domselaar.
Villa could do little with a free kick soon after, as Courtney Brosnan calmly contained the strike. What followed was a back-and-forth first 45 minutes. The Toffees’ Karen Holmgaard was first to see yellow, after her tackle on winger Kirsty Hanson drew a free kick for the home side which offered little reward.
‘Villans’ in attendance might have been pleased to see the partnership between Daly and Kenza Dali back in full swing, but chances across the first half created by the pair failed to bring about an opener.
England’s number nine was in fine form, yet was too often left racing to the posts with little support from Villa’s attack. Snoeijs darted away on the cusp of half-time, with a strike forcing Van Domselaar to produce a quality save over the bar, before the Everton forward received a yellow for bringing Dali down moments before the break.
Nothing separated the two sides at half-time, with chances from both failing to reach the back of the net. Beyond the break, a passage of sloppy defending for the hosts led Anna Patten to send a cross from Sara Holmgaard into the back of her own net, providing Everton with the game’s opener.
Goal machine Rachel Daly was quick to even things out with an equaliser just 60 seconds after, as Kirsty Hanson found the Lioness unmarked leaving the Villa striker to slot the ball past Brosnan. Maz Pacheco and Jordan Nobbs produced pieces of clever play throughout to leave Everton’s defence backtracking, but Kirsty Hanson conceded a penalty after a clumsy challenge on Heather Payne.
That left Nathalie Bjorn to fire home a tidy spot kick that Van Domselaar was unable to get a hand to, as the Toffees looked to be on track for their first WSL victory in over a month. 2-1 to Everton as Ward brought in reinforcements of Ebony Salmon and Simone Magill following the latter’s triumph against Blackburn earlier in the week.
Just 15 minutes remained for the hosts to find an equaliser and rescue a point, with Dali’s free kick in the 82nd fired over Brosnan’s head to bring more frustration for Villa. Ward’s side piled on the pressure moments before full-time with six additional minutes greeted warmly by the crowd, but last-ditch efforts from Magill and Pacheco produced little in the home side’s favour, leaving Everton to snatch all three points at Villa Park.
Speaking beyond full-time, Ward expressed her frustration with the result.
“I don’t think we played with any sort of intensity, or any rhythm. I think ultimately, we lost the game rather than them win the game. Ultimately, it’s an own goal and a penalty that’s won them the game.”
“Did we do enough to win it? Absolutely not. Did we deserve to lose it? Probably not, I think a point would have been a fair result.”
Ward went on to praise Everton’s performance at Villa Park.
“They’ve [Everton] come in on a bad run, they’ve dug deep, they’ve played in a way that’s nullified our threats as well.”
Asked if this was the worst time for an international break to crop up, Ward didn’t hesitate.
“Yeah, I’d say so…. after four wins, coming into this and then such a disappointing afternoon I think it comes at the wrong time, and it’s one [where] the players will probably want to be back in.”
Meanwhile, Everton manager Brian Sørenson commended the high-quality defending of his players.
“It’s an area where we have been [across the start of the season] not as good. We talked about [trying to] establish a good pressure then let’s stay together. Yeah, I think everybody chipped in and despite us having many, many players out.”
Looking ahead, Sørenson spoke of Everton’s run of fixtures across December, as they face West Ham away from home beyond the international break.
“West Ham… probably also didn’t get the start to the season that they hoped for, so they’ll be ready for us of course. We know it’s a tough place to go and yeah, we’ll prepare as good as we can and then see if we can take a win away.
“For whatever reason, we seem to be more comfortable getting wins away than at home, but that’s our task to change.”
With today’s result, Villa slip into 10th place while Everton snatch 8th spot following a 4-0 loss for Brighton against Liverpool.
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