A brilliant Danielle Taylor freekick was cancelled out when Birmingham City netted following a saved penalty in a tightly contested game. While Everton created more chances and had significantly more of the ball, neither side really showed the clinical edge needed to win the match.
In a game of little attacking quality it is Carla Ward who will be the happier of the managers as her side took the point that they clearly came for. Neither side offered much in the final third, and Willie Kirk will be disappointed with his side as they were unable to convert complete control of possession into any clear cut chances.
Story of the match
Everton dominated the ball in the opening stages without any real penetration with Izzy Christiansen and Jill Scott controlling the tempo of the match. With neither side able to threaten the opposition goal from open play, the deadlock was broken through a set piece. Danielle Turner getting the better of Hannah Hampton with her low shot that beat the unsighted keeper from a free kick on the edge of the area.
Birmingham had been comfortable defending prior to the goal, but were forced to play further up the park after going behind. Like their hosts, however, a lack of quality in the final third was letting the Blues down. They were extremely grateful to be gifted a penalty in the 32nd minute when the ball was handled from a corner. Claudia Walker's tame finish was initially saved by Tinja-Riikka Korpela, but the keeper was unable to stop the follow up from Jamie-Lee Napier who stabbed home her first of the season.
Kirk, sensing his side needed something more up front made a double substitution at half time, swapping out his wingers Nicoline Sorensen and Claire Emslie and brought on Alisha Lehmann and Hayley Raso. With the changes made Everton looked more dangerous on the wings with Lehmann and Turner causing problems down the left and Raso's crosses drawing a couple saves from Hampton.
Despite the changes, Birmingham's defence was resolute and while Everton had more and more of the ball, Carla Ward's side was happy to drop deep and frustrate the Toffees. Although Everton had a slew of late corners in which they nearly scored when the ball clipped the bar off a Birmingham defender, the Toffees never really looked too threatening as the Blues were able to close out the match.
Everton still lacking attacking threat...
The return of star Striker Valerie Gauvin is a massive boost to the Toffees, but Willie Kirk will be disappointed with just how little threat his side carried forward. In a game where they had the vast majority of the ball, Everton offered no penetration, either through the middle from Scott and Christiansen or from their wide players leading to the half time changes. While there will be plenty of matches in which they will play weaker defences, they will need to greatly improve going forward if they are to close the gap on the top four.
Birmingham came with a plan, and executed...
Right from the off, it was clear that Birmingham city were not making the journey up to Liverpool with much attacking intent. Carla Ward's side set up to frustrate and they did exactly that. There is a reason that the Blues have the best defence outside the top four and even with the absence of key centre-back Georgia Brougham, they were well organised and kept an excellent defensive shape. Ward said before the game that they are not out of the relegation scrap and have to continue fighting for every point, but with a defence like this one, they will be extremely confident of doing just that.
Despite having less than thirty minutes of senior football and making her first ever senior start- on her debut no less- Ruby Mace had a magnificent game. The 17 year old centre-back was up for the challenge of marshalling the talented Gauvin. Mace did not put a foot wrong and made an impressive partnership with Harriet Scott who was playing as a centre-back for only the second match this season. Not only was she defensively solid, she looked comfortable bringing the ball out the back and has a deceptively good pass on her.