Everton skipper Lucy Graham has insisted her side can target a Champions League spot this season after starring in the opening weekend victory over Bristol City, writes Paul Martin.
The Scotland international was in inspired form against her former club, scoring twice and setting up the other two goals in a 4-0 win as the Toffees kicked off the new campaign in style.
And having flown out the traps, Graham has big ambitions for her side as they look to build on last season’s sixth-place finish in the Women’s Super League.
“As a team, we are aiming for top three this season,” she said. “With an extra Champions League place up for grabs, it would be stupid to turn a blind eye to that.
“We are a top six team but we are not shy of going to the next level and competing with these top, top clubs. It’s never easy to take points off the top teams but it’s definitely in our sights to start competing with them.
We haven't been able to stop watching this assist from Lucy Graham all week 🤩— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) September 10, 2020
The @EvertonWomen captain was involved in all 4️⃣ goals last weekend 👏
Watch out on Sunday, @SpursWomen 😉 pic.twitter.com/lEoyLa9POG
“Sunday was a great start and it’s so, so good to be back playing competitive football – albeit without fans, but we’ll take it for now.
“I’m always happy to get on the scoresheet and contribute, and it’s nice to open my account on the first weekend. But I’m even happier about the performance of the team.
“I’ve got a really good record against Bristol City, as I did for them playing against Everton – that fixture must just have something in the air for me.”
Sunday’s game may have been Everton’s first league fixture since February 23 but it took Graham just seven minutes to make her mark with a fantastic assist, the midfielder’s back-heeled flick on the volley finished off by Simone Magill to set the visitors on their way.
“I couldn’t take it down and turn so I thought I’d just help it on,” she said. “It looked a bit eccentric but I’m so happy it landed for Si [Simone Magill] to finish it off.
“It’s definitely one of my better assists – especially because it was actually meant as well! It helped get us off to a really good start and we kicked on from there.”
The victory was made all the sweeter by the notable performances of Everton’s new signings.
Graham’s first goal was set up by Nicoline Sorensen, who joined from Brondby over the summer, and Valerie Gauvin – a prolific goalscorer in French football with Toulouse and Montpellier - netted the fourth late on.
“The new players have settled in really well and the club are great at making new signings feel comfortable, as I know myself having arrived last season,” Graham said.
“Valerie showed her quality by putting one away, Nicoline had the assist for my first goal - they are contributing already, which speaks volumes for how good they will be this season.”
The early impact of Everton’s European imports has only increased the confidence within Willie Kirk’s side as they enter their first full season at their new Walton Park Hall home.
🔵 𝐓𝐇𝐈𝐒 𝐒𝐔𝐍𝐃𝐀𝐘 🔵— Everton Women (@EvertonWomen) September 10, 2020
🆚 @SpursWomen, KO 1pm
🆚 @SpursOfficial, KO 4:30pm
Watch the first instalment of Sunday's double header against Spurs for FREE on The FA Player.
👉 https://t.co/ffwOp4nihz pic.twitter.com/X5Am6Btip3
And should Everton begin to hit new heights, they know they have a skipper who relishes the big occasion. Graham scored the winner in last season’s historic Merseyside derby at Anfield in front of 23,500 fans and has Champions League experience, scoring four goals in three matches for Hibernian in the 2017/18 tournament.
“For me, football is all about testing yourself against the best,” Graham said.
“That’s why I came to Everton in the first place, being in that environment with constant competition and pressure. The manager has a saying that ‘pressure is a privilege’ and I agree with that.
“Scoring at Anfield was incredible. The whole build-up to that fixture was magic and to win there made it such a special occasion for the club.
“The competition within the squad is through the roof at the minute and it makes you a better player in the long-term.
“After such a long break, we just want the games to keep coming. We’ve got off to a great start and hopefully we can that form going.”
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