Everton 0-1 Chelsea: FA Cup holders keep quadruple hopes alive with narrow victory at Walton Hall Park

Everton hosted holders Chelsea in the Adobe Women’s FA Cup quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon, looking to progress to the final four for the first time since 2020. Emma Hayes’ side, meanwhile, were seeking to move towards their fourth consecutive FA Cup title, and keep their hopes of a quadruple alive.

EVE: Brosnan; Stenevik, Finnigan, Vanhaevermaet; Kühl, Bennison, Wheeler, Galli; Snoeijs, Piemonte, Payne

CHE: Mušović; Carter, Björn, Nüsken, Périsset; Cuthbert, Ingle, Čanković; Beever-Jones, Kirby, Rytting Kaneryd

The sides’ last meeting ended in a 3-0 victory for Chelsea in the Barclays Women’s Super League, though Brian Sørensen’s side were aggrieved by conceding two of those goals through arguably harsh penalties.

For most of the first half, it was Brian Sørensen’s side who appeared the bigger threat. January loan signing Kathrine Kühl’s effort in the 17th minute necessitated Zecira Mušović’s first real save of the game. The Dane continued to cause problems for the holders in open play, aided by Aurora Galli – and Hannah Bennison’s corners also gave the Blues several headaches.

Chelsea had little breathing room under Everton’s energetic high press, with several hairy moments from Mušović, and Sørensen’s Toffees were the better team. They were just the missing clinical edge that prevented them from taking what would have been a deserved lead, and they were almost made to regret it before half-time.

Chelsea came back into the contest just before the half hour mark, with Sophie Ingle taking a shot from the edge of the box and Beever-Jones making a worrying run in along the byline. However, the Blues lacked their usual firepower up front with Sam Kerr and Mayra Ramírez both out of action, and relied on set pieces and long-range efforts for opportunities.

An excellent run by Johanna Rytting Kaneryd gave Emma Hayes’ team the last and best chance of the half – Courtney Brosnan would not have reached Jelena Čanković’s left footed shot from inside the box, and will have breathed a real sigh of relief to see it flash past the post. At the interval, both managers would have been frustrated not to have taken their chances.

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Chelsea came out with renewed intent at halftime, perhaps after receiving some of that frustration from Emma Hayes at the break – with the first passage of play, Courtney Brosnan was called out to collect a shot after a neat one-two between Rytting Kaneryd and Beever-Jones.

It was Everton who were under the cosh in the opening minutes; Niamh Charles – introduced in the first half when Björn had to be withdrawn due to injury – struck the side netting at the 48-minute mark, and Chelsea looked much more willing to commit players forward.

A clumsy challenge by Jess Carter outside the box earned her a yellow card and very nearly handed Everton the opener – Elise Stenevik’s effort would have been a goal to remember if it were not for a combination of Mušović and the crossbar. It was at this point that Emma Hayes brought out her heavy artillery – Lauren James and Catarina Macario, who the manager had likely hoped to give some much-needed rest, were introduced. 

The change paid off faster than Chelsea could have hoped. Beever-Jones breezed past the Everton defence and there was finally a recipient for her creative efforts: Mácario, for the second time as a Blue, came straight off the bench to finish off the move. It was the simplest of tap-ins – but it was emblematic of the depth enjoyed by Emma Hayes’ squad, and a devastating blow for Everton.

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Brian Sørensen looked to respond with fresh legs of his own, introducing Rikke Madsen and Lucy Hope for Kuhl and Heather Payne. Chelsea were keen to kill the game off and peppered the Everton box with crosses, but couldn’t find a second goal and with fifteen minutes remaining the result was far from a foregone conclusion.

The new energy brought by Madsen was the most promising source for the hosts; her driving run set up Piemonte for a blocked cross just before the 80th minute, and seconds later she gave Katja Snoeijs an unbelievable opportunity. Madsen’s cross zipped tantalisingly across the goalmouth for what should have been a straightforward tap-in – but Snoeijs couldn’t turn it home. 

Everton fought until the death to keep their cup hopes alive – at 83 minutes there were even more reinforcements brought in, with Emma Bissell and Eleanor Dale replacing Bennison and Snoeijs. Chances kept coming – in stoppage time the ball was in the Chelsea box, with Justine Vanhaevermaet also sent up to add an extra pair of shooting boots, but the Toffees couldn’t find the net and Musovic again collected.

Sørensen’s team simply missed the quality in the final third, and Emma Hayes’ army of attacking talent on the bench paid off in the end. Cat Macario’s goal, despite Everton’s eleven shots and their attacking promise in the first half in particular, was ultimately the difference.

Chelsea’s quest for the quadruple continues as they join Manchester United, Leicester City and Tottenham in the final four. They will discover their semifinal opponents on Tuesday morning, and also face a clash with title challengers and local rivals Arsenal on Friday. Everton will look to bounce back when they host Aston Villa on Saturday.