Everton effectively sealed their fifth place in the Women's Super League after a brilliant performance on the south coast. Hayley Raso scored a hattrick and won a penalty in a truly special performance from the right winger.
The victory puts the Merseysiders seven points clear of Brighton & Hove Albion in the hunt for fifth place and sets them up as the 'best of the rest' in the WSL. Everton were in control from start to finish and will see this match as the perfect platform to end the season on a high.
Story of the match
The match came to life in the 23rd minute when an innocuous ball over the top was not dealt with by Brighton. Hayley Raso took advantage and nipped in between Maya Le Tissier and Megan Walsh before being brought down for a penalty. Izzy Christiansen slotted home to put the Toffees ahead.
Just a minute later Everton had doubled their lead. It was again Raso doing the damage, when she picked up the ball on the left wing before cutting inside and beating a couple defenders before slotting home through a crowd of Brighton defenders.
Brighton nearly had an instant reply when Aileen Whelan's header was spilled by Tinja-Riikka Korpela and nearly scrambled in, but it was the away side who took control of the game. Christiansen and Jill Scott dictating possession superbly and denying the Seagulls the chance to put Everton under any sustained pressure.
Brighton needed to come out in the second half with a strong response, but once again they were architects of their own downfall. With just three minutes played Claire Emslie took advantaged of Le Tissier's poor clearance. Her deflected cross looped over the keeper and into the path of Raso who tapped home for her second goal of the game.
Simone Magill joined in the action just after the hour to put the game to bed. The Northern Irish international tapped home from a knock down off a Christiansen free kick
However it was Everton and Raso who would have the last say as she grabbed a third goal and the match ball. Substitute Nicoline Sørensen's low cross was cleared into the path of the Australian who slotted home from 12 yards.
Whelan, who had undoubtedly been the biggest threat for a Brighton side devoid of attacking quality, smashed a shot off the bar with five minutes remaining.
While Brighton's brilliant run of form was always destined to end at some point, Hope Powell will be furious at the manner in which it ended. In particular, she will be disappointed by the manner of the goals conceded. With the exception of Raso's first goal, the other three were extremely avoidable.
Uncharacteristic mistakes from Le Tissier and Walsh took the game away from the Seagulls before they conceded from a routine free kick. For a side that does harbour eventual UEFA Champions League ambitions, they have a long way to go to close the gap on the teams at the top.
This was a consummate performance from Everton. The Toffees never looked under any real pressure and were in complete control from the moment they took the lead. This match highlights the gap that is there between Everton and the rest of the chasing pack in the Women's Super League, and they will be hoping to build on this performance. Willie Kirk's side have been remarkably inconsistent, but this victory gives them the platform to finish the season on a high and cement their place as the fifth best side in England.
A number of Everton players had excellent games, particularly Izzy Christiansen, but the game was one by the excellence of Hayey Raso. The Australian winger showed equal parts, desire and quality in a game which she decided almost entirely on her own. Her chasing down of a lost cause won the penalty which sent the Toffees on their way before she grabbed a hattrick and the match ball. Her movement and dribbling caused the Brighton defence problems all game and she had the clinical edge to finish off the timid Seagulls.