Chelsea regained top spot in the Women’s Super League thanks to two controversial penalties scored by Guro Reiten and a clinical finish from Erin Cuthbert in a 3-0 victory over Everton.
Manchester City had temporarily moved above the Blues after beating Leicester earlier on Sunday, but Emma Hayes’ side were ruthless as Mayra Ramirez made her first start since joining the club for a British-record fee of £385k.
Everton were harshly undone in the first half when Clare Wheeler was punished for winning the ball ahead of Johanna Rytting Kaneryd in the penalty area. Reiten stepped up and found the bottom left corner beyond the reach of goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan.
Then, with less than 20 minutes to play, Wheeler was again penalised after Ramirez went down in the box and Reiten made no mistake again.
Everton manager Brian Sorensen was sent off for dissent moments before Cuthbert volleyed in the third to move Chelsea three points clear.
How Chelsea beat Everton
Reiten had the first Chelsea chance from a smart Ramirez cross but was unable to beat Brosnan, who soon parried a delivery into the box against the upright with Wheeler clearing off the line.
Wheeler was then punished for her good work in the Everton box as Reiten took full advantage from the penalty spot.
The visitors should have been level when Rikke Madsen’s perfect cross was put over from close range by Aurora Galli.
Chelsea were not at their best but ramped up the pressure around the hour mark when Johanna Rytting Kaneryd blazed over before Lauren James shot narrowly wide.
Eventually, it paid off when Ramirez went to ground in the box following the slightest of touches from Wheeler – and Reiten tucked home.
Sorensen showed his frustrations late on which were compounded by a lovely Chelsea move that Cuthbert rounded off with a clinical volley.
Neligan: Game decided on penalty decisions
Everton assistant manager Stephen Neligan told Sky Sports: “Scoreline aside, there are lots of positives we can take from the performance. There are still a lot of things we can improve on.
“We came in at half-time and knew we had the wind behind us in the second half so were optimistic about what we could have got out of it. The first 15, 20 minutes of the second half we were happy and then the quality of Chelsea started to hurt some of our mistakes.”
On penalty decisions: “It’s hard to see from where I was standing. I’ve seen the replay of the second one which could have gone either way. You could say both of them were hard done by but it is what it is.
“The game has ultimately been decided on decisions like that, that could go either way.”
On Brian Sorensen’s red card: “I have no idea, I stand up the top so couldn’t see down below to what was happening.”
Hayes: I’ve never known us to get two penalties
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes told Sky Sports: “We absolutely had to show patience in that game, and I didn’t think we had enough of it in the first half. We had so much energy and the players just wanted to do everything at 100 miles per hour and it didn’t help us.
“I said to them ‘Calm down! We have the whole game to play.’ I can’t fault the players though, they want to win, they want to play well, I thought our quality did show through in the second half.
“Our issue in the first half was our impatience in possession that created the transitions between both teams, but yes, happy all around.
“We deserved to win the game. I have never seen us get two penalties in a game before, so that’s a first! And a good debut for Mayra Ramirez.”
On penalty decisions: “I haven’t watched it [the first one]. I can’t have an opinion because I didn’t see it.”
Chelsea have three consecutive home games coming up. First, they host Sunderland Ladies in the Women’s League Cup on Wednesday. Kick-off 7pm. Crystal Palace then visit on Sunday February 11 in the FA Cup at 2pm before a huge fixture against title rivals Manchester City in the Women’s Super League on Friday February 16. Kick-off 7.15pm.
Everton visit Nottingham Forest Ladies in the FA Cup on Sunday. Kick-off 4pm. They return to WSL action on Sunday February 18 at home to West Ham. Kick-off 1pm.