Three stunning strikes gave Everton a crucial victory over fellow title chasers Arsenal in an entertaining ecounter on Merseyside.

Keen to keep up the pressure on first-placed Birmingham, the Londoners were quickest out of the traps in this second-against-third battle.

They took the lead on three minutes when Everton defender Amy Kane under hit a pass back and Gunners' forward Ellen White nipped into round keeper Rachel Brown and score.

It was a nightmare start for the home side, who knew that defeat would severely dent their championship hopes.

Buoyed by the dream start, Arsenal pressed on and almost added a second on five minutes, when White cleverly headed at goal from Rachel Yankey's low cross, only to be denied by a terrific Brown save.

The visitors looked on top form going forward with wingers Yankey and Danielle Carter proving too hot to handle for the Everton defence.

It took 25 minutes for the tide to change, as the blues went close with two set pieces - first a close-range Jill Scott header that went narrowly wide of the target and then an Rachel Unitt free kick from 20 yards out that hit the wall.

The chances inspired the Merseysiders to kick on, and after going close twice more, they finally made their new-found confidence pay.

With seven minutes left to the break, forward Michelle Hinnigan picked up possession 25 yards out on the right wing and chipped in a floated cross that seemed to wrong foot Arsenal stopper Emma Byrne and looped into the top corner of the net.

Players on both sides did well to cope with the muggy conditions and, such was the furious pace of play, the ladies took drinks breaks during injury stoppages.

And it was Everton who rose to the challenge after the break with Natasha Dowie volleying a shot narrowly over the bar from a central position on the edge of the area.

The breakneck speed of the game dropped a little until the 62nd minute when a moment of brilliance clinched all three points for Everton.

After an admirable show of persistence for possession out on the left wing, deep in Arsenal's half, Toni Duggan won a throw and, after a superb lay off from Hinnigan, Kane made amends for her earlier error by smashing a superb half volley from the edge of the area past Byrne for 2-1.

And Duggan, who chased the visitors' back line all game, was rewarded for her effort with seven minutes left on the clock when she added a third for Everton, battering a home a well-timed shot from inside the area.

Duggan should have made it four in stoppage time when she hit a shot against a post from just two yards.
But by then the points were sealed, and the Blues will now be hoping to maintain the momentum in their next match at first-placed Birmingham.

The victory is a plus for Birmingham, who are four points clear of Arsenal and seven clear of Everton, with all sides having five league games left this season.

Arsenal Ladies

1
Byrne
2
Houghton
3
Nobbs
4
Flaherty
5
Grant
6
Fahey
7
Carter 84
8
Yankey 55
9
Little 84
10
White Goal!
11
Chapman

Substitutes

12
Beattie 84
13
Ludlow 55
14
Fleeting 84

Everton Ladies

1
Brown
2
Unitt
3
Whelan
4
Easton 84
5
Duggan Goal!
6
Harries
7
Hinnigan 89 Goal!
8
Scott
9
Johnson
10
Dowie 89
11
Kane Goal!

Substitutes

12
Bronze 84
13
Chaplen 89
14
Handley 89
Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 31 Jul 2011