With a steady stream of torrential rain and forceful winds, Everton players set foot on a water-logged pitch. With bright lights illuminating the stage and a dark sky serving as the backdrop, Everton kicked off against a well-organized and competitive Reading side.
Other than Everton’s lone goal — more on that later — the Toffees’ best opportunity to score came within the first minute of the match; Hayley Raso drove down the right wing before playing a looping cross into the box. After Izzy Christiansen missed the ball, Nicoline Sørensen found herself wide open at the back post. Sadly, Sørensen paced her shot over the net, wasting a golden chance.
Everton continued to threaten with back-to-back corners, but the home team failed to generate offense for a majority of the first half. As a result of the conditions, neither team could create much going forward. Long, diagonal passes either skipped on the slick grass and out of reach of the intended target. Or the ball got caught up in the wind, nullifying a progressive move up the pitch.
With the weather slowing the pace of play, Everton broke the tie in the 39th. The move started with a quick throw-in from Megan Finnigan, who found an unmarked Lucy Graham. Graham attempted to pick out Sørensen on the wing, only to see her pass blocked. Fortunately, the ball fell to Sørensen, who connected with Emslie for a quick give-and-go, a move that sent the Danish winger in on goal. A low, hard shot forced a strong save from Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney, but the ball spun in the air, and Simone Magill was the quickest to react. Everton 1, Reading 0.
Everton, however, had very little time to protect their lead. Three minutes later, Natasha Harding received a forward pass from Jess Fishlock. Harding broke away on the right wing and was forced wide. With only Danielle Carter making a run into the box, Harding fired a cross that dipped under the far-left corner and into the back of the net. Intentional or not, which can be debated later, Harding’s strike levelled what had been an even contest so far.
️ | "It's not good enough to just get a cross into the box and have a couple of runners. It's about getting the specific details right. We weren't good enough in the final third."@WillieKirk has his say on #EFC's #BarclaysFAWSL draw with Reading... pic.twitter.com/jFyUyiW7FV— Everton Women (@EvertonWomen) November 15, 2020
An exciting final 10 minutes of the game saw Raso deliver another cross into the box. This time, however, Emslie couldn’t quite wrap her foot around the ball. As the teams charged into the dressing rooms to dry off, the score remained locked at one a piece.
As time wore on, the life of the game flickered like a light at the end of an old candle. Both teams tried to establish a tempo, but the rain and wind made forward momentum erratic and unpredictable.
In the 48th, another Raso cross almost resulted in an own goal. 10 minutes later, Christiansen received a pass from Sørensen at the top of the box but sliced her shot wide, as she was always leaning back. Fishlock almost found Carter in the 61st, but MacIver was alert to the danger and quick off her line. Emslie saw a header glance wide with 20 minutes left in the game.
With a lack of proven attacking options on the bench, Manager Willie Kirk waited until the 82nd minute to make his only substitution of the game. With only eight minutes with which to work, Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah wasn’t able to have much of an impact in the waning minutes. A late Moloney save kept the score level, a fitting result for a subdued performance.
The draw sees Everton sitting in third place in the WSL table now, three points off leaders Manchester United.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
With much of the energy having leaked out of the affair, Finnigan — in what would prove to be the final play of the game — forced a diving, one-handed save from Moloney; the goalkeeper’s moment of magic certainly preserved a point for her team.
1. Simone Magill
With Valérie Gauvin set to be out until late December, Magill has the opportunity to retake the nine position. Magill does a little bit of everything — she can score, hold the ball, make cutting runs and drop back to defend. With the starting striking spot hers once again, look for Magill to build on her tally of two league goals.
2. Claire Emslie
Emslie can play on either wing or through the middle, a true testament to her versatile skill set. She sat just beneath Magill against Reading and was constantly looking to drive forward. Her quick feet paired with an ability to rapidly change pace gives her more room with which to work, for defenders are hesitant to step to her.
3. Nicoline Sørensen
It was Sørensen’s sharp passing with Emslie that led to Everton’s goal. She is strong on the wings and can even float inside. Her miss in the opening moments of the game was an uncharacteristic mistake, but she otherwise made the most of the chances she was given,
Everton (4-2-3-1): 1-Sandy MacIver; 2-Ingrid Moe Wold, 3-Danielle Turner, 20-Megan Finnigan, 22-Rikke Sevecke; 8-Izzy Christiansen, 17-Lucy Graham (c); 11-Claire Emslie, 14-Nicoline Sørensen, 16-Hayley Raso; 10-Simone Magill
Substitutes: 7-Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah for Magill 82
Unused Substitutes: 12-Damaris Egurrola, 13-Abbey-Leigh Stringer, 15-Molly Pike, 21-Maéva Clemaron, 23-Tinja-Riikka Korpela, 26-Grace Clinton, 30-Poppy Pattinson, 31-Anna Pederson
Goals: Magill 39
Bookings: Christiansen 70
Reading (4-3-3): 1-Grace Moloney; 2-Kristine Leine, 3-Emma Mitchell, 5-Molly Bartrip, 23-Rachel Rowe; 6-Angharad James, 8-Jess Fishlock, 19-Brooke Chaplen; 9-Amalie Eikeland, 11-Natasha Harding, 18-Danielle Carter
Substitutes: 28-Lily Woodham for Mitchell 45, 4-Fara Williams for Carter 62, 10-Lauren Bruton for Chaplen 62
Unused Substitutes: 16-Erin Naylor, 29-Kiera Skeels, 31-Bethan Roberts, 32-Molly Childerhouse, 36-Emma Harries
Goals: Harding 42