Simona Koren pounced to score the only goal of the game as Sunderland opened their FA Women’s Super League campaign with a 1-0 victory at Reading.
It was very much a smash-and-grab for the visitors, who had just three shots on goal all game, as their defence absorbed plenty of pressure from the Royals who could not find a way through.
Reading began the game on the front foot and went close when Anke Preuss did well to hold on to a low free-kick by Netherlands international Mandy Van Den Berg.
But Sunderland were gifted the lead in the sixth minute when Mary Earps miskicked after receiving a back-pass from Van Den Berg, giving Koren an empty net to score.
The Royals huffed and puffed after falling behind, but the lively Lauren Bruton forced a smothering save from Preuss before sending a superb 30-yard effort just over the bar.
Bruton was denied by Preuss again just before half-time after she had been played in by Remi Allen and was thwarted once more in the early minutes of the second half.
A stretching Allen then shot over from Molly Bartrip’s excellent cross as Reading turned up the heat, but the Black Cats’ defence continued to hold firm.
The hosts’ frustrations went on, as substitute Rachel Furness lifted a shot over after Bartrip’s corner fell her way on an afternoon were it just would not go in for them, as Sunderland claimed a hard-earned opening-day win.
Reading (4-3-3): Mary Earps, Molly Bartrip, Kirsty Pearce, Mandy Van Den Berg, Rachel Rowe, Jade Moore, Fara Williams, Remi Allen, Lauren Bruton, Kirsty Linnet, Brooke Chaplen. Substitutes: Rachel Furness for Chaplen 69. Substitutes not used: Harriett Scott, Anna Green, Grace Moloney, Sophie O’Rourke, Georgia Clifford
Bookings: Bartrip 44, Pearce 90
Sunderland (3-4-1-2): Anke Preuss, Ellie Stewart, Victoria Williams, Hayley Sharp, Zaneta Wyne, Dominique Bruinenberg, Kasia Lipka, Kylla Sjoman, Lucy Staniforth, Abbey Joice, Simona Koren. Substitutes: Danielle Brown for Koren 73. Substitutes not used: Rachel Laws, Anna Young, Bridget Galloway, Mollie Lambert
Bookings: Williams 76
Referee: Stacey Pearson