Everton slipped to a 3-0 defeat at home to Chelsea in Wednesday night’s WSL encounter, further denting their top-four ambitions.

Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder and Melanie Leupolz all scored for Emma Hayes’ Chelsea side.

The league leaders asserted their dominance throughout the match, and won a penalty in the first minute when Lucy Graham handled the ball in the box.

Melanie Leupolz stepped up for Chelsea with regular penalty-taker Maren Mjelde out injured, but stand-in Everton goalkeeper Tina-Riika Korpela got down well to her right to make the save from the spot-kick.

Chelsea’s prolific pair of Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby combined to open the scoring with 14 minutes gone. Kerr played Kirby in behind the Everton defence to slot past Korpela and hand the visitors the advantage.

Kerr played Kirby in again not long after in the first half, but the forward dragged her shot just wide of the upright following a mistake at the back from Hayley Raso.

Korpela was forced into another strong save as the break approached, as Chelsea sent in a corner from the left which Erin Cuthbert hit on the turn, only for the Finnish stopper to parry it away.

Everton had a chance to equalise early in the second period when Claire Emslie cut inside looking to bend the ball into the far corner, but Chelsea ‘keeper Ann-Katrin Berger made the save.

Kerr and Kirby combined again in the Everton box on the hour mark before putting it on a plate for Pernille Harder, who made no mistake to put the visitors two ahead.

Chelsea continued to put pressure on the home side and caught Everton out from a free-kick situation with ten minutes to go. Jill Scott cleared the initial free-kick but Millie Bright sent it back into the Everton box for Harder to head at goal. Korpela made the initial stop but it fell straight to Leupolz to gratefully slot home and atone for her early penalty miss.

Everton manager Willie Kirk admitted the game was “entertaining” but said it had “partially given us confidence and partially given us a reality check.”

“If we’re serious about closing the gap we need to make sure we’re the best of the rest. We know how big the gap is and we think we know how to close it. But knowing how to close it and closing it are completely different things.”

With five league games remaining, Everton travel to Brighton & Hove Albion in their next fixture on Sunday 28th March with the focus on closing the gap on the top four as much as possible.