On an afternoon fit for February in Berkshire, Everton loanee Alisha Lehmann earned her first start with the team. Signed through the end of the season from West ham, Lehmann had featured twice in a substitute role before being named in the starting XI against hosts Reading.
The opening stages of the contest saw an overall inability of either side to establish consistent possession of the ball. Claire Emslie displayed good chemistry with left back Danielle Turner and midfielder Izzy Christiansen, but the result of their interplay was a poor cross that lacked power.
After a bit of poor play in the midfield gifted Reading the ball, backup goalkeeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela — who has started Everton’s past two fixtures with Sandy MacIver missing time — came up with an early stop on Rachel Rowe.
Lehmann did well to link up with Valérie Gauvin up top, as the two worked with Emslie to try and break down the Royals’ resolute defending. The Toffees managed several corners but failed to trouble Grace Moloney in net.
In the 25th minute, it again was Rowe that drove the attack for the home side. And despite a herculean effort from Reading’s right winger, the ball somehow never crossed the goal line. With Everton conceding a majority of possession in the first half, they only held 43-percent, Reading scored in the 34th when the ball dropped to Rowe inside the six — after the two sides did their best pinball impression, Rowe had a simple tap in at the front of the net.
Everton Manager Willie Kirk made a double-substitution in the 60’ — Simone Magill replaced Gauvin and Hayley Raso came on for Lehmann. The fresh legs reinvigorated the Toffees, as the team won consecutive corner kicks; Emslie’s deliveries were poor, however, and the opportunities went wasted.
Following Kirk’s second double-change of the game in the 71st, the Blues looked even more threatening, and they would have their reward six minutes later courtesy of the two subs, Lucy Graham and Nicoline Sørensen. The play began with Graham, who turned away from pressure and found Magill in the middle of the pitch. The Northern Ireland international zipped a pass to Ingrid Moe Wold, who was darting down the right flank. As per usual, Wold’s service to the back post was impeccable, and Sørensen smashed a header into the back of the net to level the score at one apiece.
Despite mounting pressure late in the game, the Toffees failed to come out with the win, instead settling for a 1–1 draw and a second-straight disheartening result. Sunday’s tie against Reading makes it one win in Everton’s last nine WSL matches.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
In the 77th minute, Nicoline Sørensen struck a header back across the face of goal to salvage what was perhaps a fortunate tie against a Reading team that played a superior 90 minutes. The Dane helped her side stay in fifth place in the league, trailing Arsenal in fourth by four points.
Everton (4-1-4-1): Tinja-Riikka Korpela; Ingrid Moe Wold, Megan Finnigan, Rikke Sevecke, Danielle Turner; Abbey-Leigh Stringer; Alisha Lehmann, Jill Scott, Izzy Christiansen, Claire Emslie; Valérie Gauvin
Substitutes: Hayley Raso for Lehmann 60, Simone Magill for Gauvin 61, Nicoline Sørensen for Emslie 71, Lucy Graham for Stringer 71
Unused Substitutes: Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah, Maéva Clemaron, Grace Clinton, Gabby George, Anna Pedersen
Goals: Sorensen 77
Bookings: Stringer 24
Reading (4-4-2): Grace Moloney; Emma Mitchell, Deanna Cooper, Molly Bartrip, Lily Woodham; Rachel Rowe, Angharad James, Jessica Fishlock, Amalie Eikeland; Danielle Carter, Natasha Harding
Substitutes: Kristine Leine for Woodhams 71, Lauren Bruton for Carter 80
Unused Substitutes: Molly Childerhouse, Silvana Flores, Erin Nayler, Bethan Robert
Goals: Rowe 34
Bookings: Bartrip 90