Unfazed by the impending departure of their manager, Nick Cushing, next month, Pauline Bremer and Gemma Bonner’s goals helped Manchester City to a win over an organised Everton side. The Women’s Super League was rocked on Thursday by the announcement that Cushing is swapping the dugout at the Academy Stadium, and a title race, to take up the position of assistant coach at the MLS side New York City FC, a team that are under the umbrella of his City Football Group employers.
With England’s Ellen White on the bench, it would have been easy to think they could falter in the face of this disruption against a side who are utterly transformed under the guidance of Willie Kirk.
But Bremer, who looks reborn now having made six league appearances across the previous two seasons thanks to a nasty leg break, punished the visiting team. Last season Everton picked up 12 points and finished 10th in an 11-team league. Travelling down the M62 to a title-chasing Manchester City, they were in a much healthier state: fifth in the WSL with 15 points and 13 games still to play.
Seemingly undeterred by the absence of their top scorer, Chloe Kelly, and the new recruit Izzy Christiansen, reported to have picked up knocks, they started brightly. Within three minutes Hannah Cain was testing the City backline, forcing a stretched save from Ellie Roebuck, who managed to deflect the ball on to the underside of the bar.
City, though, did not take long to get a more assured footing in the game with England’s Georgia Stanway full of energy up front alongside a resurgent Bremer. Released by Keira Walsh, Stanway swung one wide of the far post. Soon after, picking up a ball in behind from Janine Beckie, the young forward cut on to her left and swept narrowly over the bar.
Despite the new purpose about Everton in the sweeping rain the momentum had well and truly swung City’s way and on 18 minutes they had the breakthrough. Beckie sent a crossfield pass to Lauren Hemp who squared to Caroline Weir, Tina Korpela got her body in front of the ball but Bremer was able to poke over the line much to the frustrations of the goalkeeper, who screamed in vain at the referee, Amy Fearn, for handball.
With City in the ascendancy Everton’s Gabby George helped keep their deficit to one. First she blocked from Bremer after the German danced into the box with stepovers aplenty, then she threw herself in front of Stanway after Weir had slid her clean through.
Everton, in their salmon-coloured shirts, were well and truly swimming upstream.
In the second half and with chants of “there’s only one Nick Cushing” ringing around the floodlit Academy Stadium, Bremer grabbed her second, and ninth league goal of the season. Hemp nicked the ball on the left played it to the German forward who, in acres of space, took a touch and powered her strike into the top corner.
Everton were not without chances, but luck evaded them as Cain again struck the bar from outside the box after robbing Demi Stokes. With Everton pushing for a reply they were exposed at the back and this time it was Bremer‘s turn to be denied by the crossbar, her stunning overhead kick hitting the woodwork.
Moments later though Gemma Bonner extended the home team’s lead. With Bremer missing Walsh’s free-kick Bonner met it at the far post and scrambled it past Roebuck. With her last action of the game Bremer then selflessly squared to Stanway having pulled Korpela out of position, but the goalkeeper recovered in time to brilliantly bat away the 21-year-old’s effort.
A late Stanway own goal did so little to dampen the mood that the stadium announcer did not even see fit to mention it.