It was a record-setting day as Everton, for the first time in their seven seasons of top flight Super League football, kicked off with a victory thanks to a 1-0 success at Birmingham City.
A Kerys Harrop goal 30 seconds into the second half proved decisive as Willie Kirk’s team ended a run of four successive defeats by their opponents.
In what was a hard-fought encounter, the Blues started the game well, producing some probing moves and midfielder Inessa Kaagman forcing goalkeeper Hannah Hampton into an early save from a 30-yard free-kick.
Another dangerous Kaagman free-kick almost led to a 13th-minute goal, but captain Lucy Graham’s header was well saved by the diving Hampton.
Four minutes later at the other end, keeper Tinja-Rikka Korpela, making her Super League debut after her summer signing, had to make a smart stop just inside the near post from striker Brianna Visalli.
That was Everton’s first moment of danger at the back, but Korpela then had to palm away an in-swinging corner by Lucy Staniforth before tipping a 30-yard lob over the bar from the same player in the 36th minute.
On-loan Manchester City defender Esme Morgan was booked for a challenge on winger Abbi Grant as the home side cranked up the pressure.
But as half-time approached the visitors regained their grip and only a brilliant save by Hampton from Simone Magill’s low shot kept the scoresheet blank.
Not for long, however – inside the opening minute of the second half Everton took the lead, Birmingham captain Harrop inadvertently putting the ball into her own net from a Hannah Cain cross.
Midfielder Molly Pike, on debut after her close-season signing from Chelsea, almost doubled the lead with a good shot that flew just wide of the far post.
Gabby George should have found the net in 57th minute, but from Chloe Kelly’s nicely floated corner the central defender sent a free header wide of the far post.
Kirk’s team then had a slice of luck as a long-range shot by midfielder Chloe Arthur beat Korpela but clipped the woodwork.
Birmingham continued to press for a spell, but the closing stages were played out solidly by the visitors to claim victory.