Everton Ladies 3-2 Chelsea
Everton Ladies manager Andy Spence praised his team’s attitude and character after they overcame a Chelsea fightback to steal three points on a dramatic afternoon at the Arriva Stadium.
Goals before the hour from Toni Duggan and Michelle Hinnigan seemed to have put the game beyond the reach of their West London counterparts.
But a spirited fightback and some home side errors led to a nail-biting finale that was finally settled by substitute Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah’s 84th-minute strike.
“First half, we were fantastic and dominated the game,” said Spence. “I have to praise the character shown by the girls today. To go two goals up then get pegged back, I think a lot of teams would have lost from that point.
“But the girls have only ever showed a fantastic attitude and I think that was highlighted by the winning goal.”
It was a bright start by the home team who made their intentions clear early on with some incisive attacking play down both flanks.
The warning signs were not heeded by Chelsea and on 13 minutes the impressive Jody Handley found space down the right and saw her cross met expertly by striker Duggan, who notched her seventh league goal of the season.
Everton continued to exert their dominance, with Jill Scott, Handley and Duggan combining well to create a succession of chances.
Before the break, an innocuous Eniola Aluko challenge left Everton’s Kelly Jones suffering a suspected broken wrist, forcing Spence to throw on eventual match-winner Boye Hlorkah.
The second half saw Chelsea boss Emma Hayes make changes too, with Hannah Blundell and Karin Muya entering the fray as the visitors searched for an equaliser.
The second goal was to go to the hosts though when a slick move involving Scott and Handley saw the latter’s shot blocked by Chelsea custodian Marie Hourihan - only for Hinnigan to pounce and double Everton’s advantage.
The two-goal cushion lasted merely a minute, as a Chelsea corner was spilled by Everton keeper Rachel Brown-Finnis, allowing the grateful Drew Spence to give her team a lifeline.
The goal saw Chelsea’s fightback gather steam and a sustained period of pressure finally told when a set piece was converted by Katie Holtham’s towering header.
But there was to be a final sting in the tail, as Scott linked up with Duggan to set Handley free, and though the midfielder’s effort was saved by Hourihan, there was Boye-Hlorkah well-placed to seal a precious win and take Everton above Chelsea in the WSL table.