Everton made the perfect start to 2023 as a scintillating Jess Park display helped the Blues triumph over Reading in the Women's Super League.
Everton took to the field at Walton Hall Park looking to build on their impressive performance against Tottenham Hotspur last time out and knowing a win would see them leapfrog Aston Villa and West Ham United to move up to fifth in the table. Reading, meanwhile, travelled to Merseyside in search of their first away victory of the season, having failed to pick up a single point on their travels this term.
Despite their struggles on the road, the Royals came into Sunday's clash off the back of a string of much-improved performances, having pushed reigning champions Chelsea all the way in their final outing before the winter break. Kelly Chambers made two changes from the side that fell to a narrow defeat at Kingsmeadow in December while Brian Sorensen stuck with the same XI that triumphed at Brisbane Road.
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The hosts made a bright start to the contest, with Park's effort curling just wide of the post inside six minutes. The Manchester City loanee was involved again moments later, feeding the ball into the path of Gabby George, whose superb delivery was met with a classy first-time finish from Katja Snoeijs to give Everton an early lead.
Reading responded well; former Everton and Liverpool striker Natasha Dowie picking the pocket of Nathalie Bjorn and attempting to chip the ball over Emily Ramsey but firing straight at the Everton keeper.
The visitors were quickly made to pay for the spurned opportunity as Park doubled the hosts' tally after 32 minutes; the 21-year-old dancing through the Reading defence and finding Nicoline Sorensen, who quickly threaded the ball back into the her path.
Kelly Chambers' side made a bright start to the second half as they sought to find a way back into the contest and they were rewarded for their pressure; Justine Vanhaevermaet nodding home from a corner to halve the deficit with half an hour still to play.
But George quickly restored Everton's two-goal cushion, the skipper unleashing a venomous strike from outside the box that cannonned past Jacqueline Burns in the Reading goal.
Deanna Cooper pulled one back for the Royals, heading home to set up a nervy finish to the clash. However, the Blues managed to hang on to register their first win at home since their 1-0 victory over Leicester City in September.
Here’s how the players got on at Walton Hall Park:
Emily Ramsey - 6
Held on to an early speculative effort from Dowie and was largely a spectator for much of the first half. Couldn't have done much for the goals.
Rikke Sevecke - 6
Made herself busy and did well up against Dowie early on. Under more pressure in the second half.
Nathalie Bjorn - 6
Dominant in the air although outmuscled by Dowie in a dangerous area in the first half. Subbed.
Gabby George - 8
Continued her brilliant form from the first half of the season. Always looking to get forward and set Snoeijs up for the opener. Scored Everton's third. Subbed.
Hanna Bennison - 7
Excellent on the ball and so composed under pressure in the middle of the park. Set Park away with a lovely ball in the first half. Subbed.
Jess Park - 9
A sublime display. Constantly pressing to win the ball back, mesmerising footwork and a goal.
Nicoline Sorensen - 7
Great to see her get an hour under her belt as she finds her way back to full fitness. Held the ball up well and set up Park for Everton's second. Subbed.
Lucy Hope - 7
As always full of energy and some lovely deliveries from the right. Unlucky to see her effort saved by Burns in the second half.
Aurora Galli - 7
A real motor in the middle of the park and not afraid to help out defensively. Subbed.
Katja Snoeijs - 8
Didn't stop running and was rewarded with her first goal at Walton Hall Park. Held the ball up well in the second half.
Karen Holmgaard - 6
Did a lot of the dirty work and looked solid at the back in the first. Again, had more to do after the break.
Megan Finnigan - 6
Looked largely solid on her return from injury. Crowded out by pink shirts for Reading's second goal.
Aggie Beever-Jones - 6
Injected some more energy up front after her introduction. Should have perhaps showed more composure when Everton were 2 v 1 late on.
Sara Holmgaard - 6
Looked solid in her first minutes in an Everton shirt.
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