Everton Ladies went down 1-0 to Real Betis in the semi-final of the Friendship Competition in what was a closely-contested match in Gibraltar.
A Garcia goal on 37 minutes was enough to clinch the honours for the Spanish side but it was another useful workout for Andy Spence’s Blue Girls as they continue preparations for the 2018-19 season.
The game started evenly, with both sides finding it comfortable to remain in possession and pass the ball around the sun-laden pitch. Everton created the first chance of the evening as Dan Turner received a lovely through ball from Dominique Bruinenberg but the speedy winger’s cross just evaded Claudia Walker in the area.
On 15 minutes, the Blue Girls survived their first scare as Kirstie Levell slipped as she attempted to spread the ball wide but luckily for the Blue Girls, Erina’s shot was wayward.
Everton’s first big opportunity came just after the half-hour mark as Inessa Kaagman was released following fine midfield play by Angharad James and Bruinenberg, with Kaagman’s shot flying agonisingly wide of the right-hand post for what would have been a well-worked team goal.
Four minutes later the deadlock was broken by Real Betis. As a long ball was played forward, the ball deflected off Faye Bryson into the path of Garcia who delicately chipped the ball over Levell to open the scoring.
Into the second half and Spence attempted to change Everton’s fortunes by bringing on the more attack-minded Simone Magill for Bruinenberg who impressed throughout the tournament.
As the game entered the final 30 minutes, Everton’s pressure started to take its toll on the Betis defence as the Blue Girls found openings throughout the closing stages. The best chance of the sustained period fell to Magill who was inches away from equalising as she turned over a fantastic cross by Bryson after neat interplay between the right-back and Gabby George.
George herself was next to threaten as the centre-back’s 25-yard shot was expertly tipped over the bar by the Betis shot-stopper. As the game reached the concluding five minutes, a double chance for Everton was thwarted as Magill’s cross was parried out into the path of James whose shot was well saved again.
There was one last chance for the Blue Girls when George found herself free at the edge of the box before the defender unleashed a powerful right-footed strike which again was turned around the post by the Betis goalkeeper.