Blues Ladies kicked off their WSL league campaign with a goalless draw at home to Everton on Wednesday night at The Autotech Stadium.
The home side made several changes to their starting line up, with Saturday's UEFA Champions League semi final very much in the minds of players and management. Allen, Potter, Lawley and Linnett were left on the bench, while Weston was rested all together from the squad. This meant starts for Torkildsen, Simpkins, Wilkinson and a first start for pre season signing Keryakoplis. For the visitors, Danielle Turner made her debut, and Nikita Parris started up front, filling the gap left by England striker Toni Duggan who has joined Man City.
During a quiet first half, Blues' best chance fell to Wilkinson, who was unlucky to be denied twice by Brown-Finnis in the Everton goal. The former Villa striker met a left wing cross with a good header, and after the England stopper kept that out, she was their to deny Wilkinson from the follow up shot. Becky Spencer saved well following an Everton corner, but goalscoring opportunities were few and far between for both sides.
Parker made a double change at half time, Linnett and Allen replacing Torkildsen and Wilkinson, but if anything it was the Merseyside outfit who came out stronger after the break, and it took a superb save from Spencer to deny Billie Murphy the opener. Everton looked comfortable in possession, belying their tag as favourites for relegation this season, and it took Jo Potter's inclusion on the hour mark, replacing Simpkins, to drag Blues back into the game. Her usual nonchalance and composure in possession was much needed, and with the midfield back to how it has been for the start of the season Blues seized control. The best cross of the match from Keryakoplis was inches away from a decent Linnett connection, and Allen shot straight at the keeper following a right wing cross. The closest either team came to a winner was with ten minutes remaining, Linnett escaping her marker before crashing a 25 yard effort off the bar, leaving Brown-Finnis stranded.
Neither side could find the winner, and in terms of the start of the league both teams will be pleased with their respective points and clean sheets. This is a very impressive feat for Blues, who can add this clean sheet to the two they achieved against Arsenal in the Quarter Finals. Considering the loss of Laura Bassett from the back line, and with Emily Westwood recovering from injury, the young defenders have displayed maturity and confidence beyond their years. Harrop and Mannion have set up a good understanding at the heart of the defence, while Sargeant has looked equally at home at left back (Doncaster) or right back (Everton). I would guess that Jess Carter will make the left back berth her own as the season progresses, it is incredible to see a sixteen year old with so much composure, something Parker must be delighted with considering the lack of experience Blues have at the back.
The draw was a better result for both teams taking into consideration the other result of the night, where Notts County drew 1-1 with Arsenal, which confirms the expectations of many WSL supporters that this season will be the most competitive league yet. Liverpool and Chelsea will be the two teams most likely to break away and challenge for the title, but the remaining six teams will take points off each other throughout the season, so not losing the first game was very important for all four sides.
Attentions now turn to Saturday's history making tie with Tyreso, and the defence will have to stay strong against some of the best players in the world, while hopefully the rests given to the attacking players will do them good, and they can come out firing against the Swedish giants.
Blues: Spencer, Sargeant, Mannion, Harrop, Carter, Moore, Torkildsen (Allen 46), Simpkins (Potter 60), Carney (c), Keryakoplis, Wilkinson (Linnett 46)
Subs not used: Baggaley, Haines, Lawley, Brown
Everton: Brown-Finnis, Murphy, Whelan, Johnson, Greenwood, Handley, Jones, Chaplen, Turner (Magill 77), Hinnigan (c), Parris
Subs not used: Jones, Whipp, George, Turner, Walsh, Hayes