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Millwall Lionesses 1 (Ayane 62) Everton 1 (King 87)
An opportunist strike from debutant Rosella Ayane maintained Millwall Lionesses' unbeaten start to the WSL season against promotion favourites Everton.
Indeed, the visitors who were only relegated from WSL 1 last season, required an 87th minute equaliser to earn them a share of the spoils from a hugely entertaining encounter.
Having knocked Bristol Academy out of the FA Cup in midweek, Everton came into the match full of confidence and went straight for the jugular from the first whistle. The hosts found themselves firmly on the back foot in the opening stages and could well have been behind as early as the third minute after Claudia Walker crashed a thunderous effort off the bar.
Manager Dan Mlinar altered his formation with Jordan Butler making her first start of the season at centre half alongside skipper Dionne Lennon. That switch allowed Naomi Cole to join Grace Fisk in the centre of midfield with the pair tracking back to provide added cover for the back four.
Despite enjoying the balance of possession in the first half, Millwall's resolute defending kept the Everton chances down to a minimum and when called upon keeper Sarah Quantrill was outstanding between the posts. A rare defensive lapse allowed Lucy Whipp through on goal in the 25th minute but Quantrill raced out bravely to claim the ball from the forward's toes and prevent a certain goalscoring opportunity.
Ten minutes before the interval, the Lionesses were unfortunate not to gain the upper hand from their first real chance of the game. Lillie Billson's free kick found its way through to Lennon at the far post but the captain, at full stretch, could not get enough on the ball to divert it home. A through pass from Billson then sent Ayane clear in the final minute of the half but the on loan Chelsea forward's finish was just off target.
The visitors may have dominated the first half but the second half was a much more even affair with Ayane in particular unsettling the Everton defence on several occasions.
Visiting skipper Michelle Hinnigan went close on 55 minutes with a powerful drive from distance, while Quantrill got down well at her near post to deny Whipp's angled effort from the left of goal shortly after.
Then on 62 minutes Rosella Ayane capitalised on a defensive slip to mark her debut with a goal. Megan Walsh raced out to clear Frankie Strugnell's long pass, her clearance cannoned off team mate Lindsay Johnson and Ayane was on hand to slot a cool finish into the empty net.
Everton regrouped and pressed hard for an equaliser but the game remained in the balance with the hosts looking dangerous on the counter attack. Full back Danielle Turner whipped a 71st minute centre across the face of goal but none of her team mates were on hand to apply the finish. Moments later at the opposite end, Rinsola Babajide lashed a rising drive just over as play ebbed from end to end.
Just as it seemed that the Lionesses would hold on for the victory, substitute Jess King popped up in the box to stab home an 87th minute free kick and claim a share of the spoils.
The result sees the Lionesses remain unbeaten in the League with two points from their opening home fixtures. Dan Mlinar's young side should also take plenty of confidence from another impressive performance into their upcoming away games at Durham and Watford.
Millwall Lionesses: Sarah Quantrill, Frankie Strugnell, Dionne Lennon, Jordan Butler, Leanne Cowan, Grace Fisk, Naomi Cole, Lillie Billson, Rinsola Babajide, Megan Goss (sub Christina Douglas 77mins), Rosella Ayane. Subs not used: Frankie Gibbs, Cherrelle Albert, Francesca Ali, Ciara Sherwood.
Everton: Megan Walsh, Vicky Jones, Danielle Turner, Ellie Stewart, Lindsay Johnson, Michelle Hinnigan (sub Jess King 76mins), Kelly Jones, Claudia Walker (sub Danielle Young 53mins), Lucy Whipp, Millie Turner (sub Paige Williams 64mins), Gabrielle George. Subs not used: Alex MacIver, Danielle Lea, Megan Alexander.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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