City hold off Everton but miss out on Europe

Manchester City’s hopes of playing European football next season seemed all but mathematically over ahead of kickoff at the Academy Stadium – knowing that they’d need to win their game against Everton and pray for Arsenal to stumble at home against Aston Villa. They’d also be praying for a huge swing in goal difference.

MCI: Keating; Ouahabi, Greenwood, Houghton, Morgan; Angeldahl, Hasegawa; Hemp, Castellanos, Kelly; Shaw

EVE: Brosnan; Stenevik, K Holmgaard, Bjorn; Hope, Galli, Christiansen, Wheeler, Veje; Snoeijs, Sorensen

Ahead of kickoff, the retiring Izzy Christiansen was given a guard of honour at the home of her former club – as she brings her fourteen-year playing career to an end. As was perhaps expected though, it was City that dominated the early stages, coming close to opening the scoring as Chloe Kelly’s cross was thumped against the crossbar by Lauren Hemp. The hosts’ dominance continued as the game ticked on, with Lauren Hemp squandering another chance to put her side ahead as she fired over the crossbar.

A rare chance at the other end of the pitch could have seen Katja Snoeijs take a shock lead for the Toffees, but she crumbled under the pressure and her volleyed strike was rather tame – not troubling Khiara Keating between the sticks.

Everton’s defence were evidently struggling to cope though, and were lucky to remain level as Deyna Castellanos’ stunning effort was sent wide of the upright. Remarkably, the game remained goalless at the break and it looked as if any remaining hopes of City making it to Europe had dried up.

Everton came close to taking the lead early on in the second half, as Nicoline Sorensen left Khiara Keating’s palms stinging with a thunderous effort. That would prove to be the motivation that City needed though, as Khadija Shaw propelled Gareth Taylor’s side into the lead after a great counterattack.

With just under an hour on the clock, Lauren Hemp notched City’s second of the afternoon. Having provided the assist for Shaw’s opener, the winger did well to cut inside and unleash a stunning effort that nestled beautifully in the top corner.

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As expected, Christiansen received a standing ovation from both sets of fans as she made way soon after – bringing an end to an exceptional playing career that has seen her lift plenty of silverware. The City fans had barely stopped applauding her exit, as they were sparked back into lift by Khadija Shaw’s second strike of the day with a tidy side-footed effort.

Lucy Hope provided Everton fans with a consolation goal as the game began to wind down, tapping into an open goal to bag her second of the season. It looked like it’d be too little, too late for Brian Sorensen’s side though – with just ten minutes left to play.

Leonie Maier added a second for the Toffees deep in stoppage time, though that would be the final action of the game as the referee’s whistle signalled the conclusion of the WSL season.

Despite their best efforts, Manchester City failed to qualify for Europe. Arsenal slipped up at home to Aston Villa – but the scoreline in both games didn’t result in a huge swing in goal difference, meaning the Gunners clinch the third qualifying spot.

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