Everton suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa at Walton Hall Park on Sunday afternoon.
Kenza Dali strike in the opening minutes gave the visitors an early lead, before a Megan Finnigan own goal in the second half put the points out of reach for the Blues.
Brian Sorensen's side battled right until the final whistle in search of a result, but their efforts went unrewarded, and a clinical Aston Villa took home all three points in the Barclays Women's Super League.
The teams entered the fixture just one point apart in the league table, and so the game provided a great opportunity for both sides.
The Toffees endured a slow start to the game, conceding an early chance, before going a goal down after five minutes. Former Everton midfielder, Kenza Dali's effort struck off the post and in to give the visitors an early advantage.
Everton responded well and enjoyed a comfortable spell of possession. Megan Finnigan came close after a quarter of an hour, nearly bringing down Gabby George’s back-post cross.
Jess Park began to find space behind the opposition. Despite having her shirt pulled, she drove impressively through the middle of the pitch, digging out a shot from the edge of the box, which was saved by Hannah Hampton in the Villa goal.
Despite the odd chance, Everton struggled to find a rhythm in the opening half hour and couldn’t pose a frequent threat to the opposition.
Other than the early action, the first 45 minutes didn’t provide great opportunities for either side. Despite growing into the half following a sloppy start, Everton struggled to reignite the momentum they had built prior to the prolong break between fixtures. Villa maintained their lead and entered the break a goal to the good.
Everton started the second half positively, looking calmer on the ball as players across the pitch enjoyed early touches.
Rikke Sevecke nearly levelled the scoring in the 63rd minute, following Park and George’s intricate play down the left side earned a corner for the Blues. The ball was delivered by Park, and Sevecke rose. Her headed effort was tipped just over the bar.
Just two minutes later, Park again found space behind the Villa midfield. She powered forward with the ball, before shooting ambitiously, and the strike was only inches over crossbar.
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A comeback looked on the cards, but the Blues couldn’t capitalise on a strong spell in the game. They conceded again in the 68th minute after an unfortunate error at the back. As Megan Finnigan tried to defend a dangerous low cross, she inadvertently steered the ball into her own net.
Still believing a result in reach, Everton rallied with reinforcements from the bench. Nicoline Sorensen, Aurora Galli, Elise Stenevik were all introduced for the Blues.
Despite their efforts, Everton's search for a goal was unsuccessful and were forced into their first league defeat of 2023.
The Blues are next in action with a trip to Leicester City next weekend, followed by a Merseyside derby at Goodison Park less than two weeks later.