Everton earned a well-deserved victory over Liverpool to pick up their first Women’s Super League points of the season and maintain their dominance of the Merseyside derby at Anfield.
Blues captain Megan Finnigan scored from a header in the opening half as the hosts, who had won their opening two matches, conceded for the first time in the league this season.
Liverpool, who have now lost on all three occasions they have welcomed Everton to Anfield in the WSL, started brightly and had an early Missy Bo Kearns goal controversially disallowed for offside before Ceri Holland’s wicked shot struck the crossbar.
Everton began to dominate the game after breaking the deadlock and could have extended their lead in the second half when Justine Vanhaevermaet nodded wide from a corner, before substitute Katja Snoeijs hit the woodwork on her comeback from injury.
Brian Sorensen’s side, who had lost their opening two matches of the campaign, earned a thoroughly deserved victory by defending well throughout and showing composure as they silenced an Anfield crowd which has become accustomed to Everton’s superiority in this fixture.
Liverpool have won just one of their last seven WSL games against Everton and are yet to score against the Toffees at Anfield, suffering three defeats in the process.
- Reaction to Sunday’s WSL matches
Reds rue disallowed Kearns goal
Liverpool started with intensity, displaying the confidence they had built in their back-to-back victories at the start of the season.
An early injury to Everton’s Lucy Hope meant she was replaced three minutes in, and Liverpool had the ball in the back of the net shortly afterwards when Kearns poked home Taylor Hinds’ cross.
The goal was ruled out for offside, though replays suggested Kearns may have held her run just about enough, so Everton were perhaps lucky to stay level.
“We had a perfectly good goal disallowed, which is frustrating because it completely changed the dynamic of the game,” Liverpool manager Matt Beard said afterwards.
“I don’t think we deserved to lose the game – I think the officiating has had an impact on the result. I’ve watched the goal back, the player that is pressing Taylor [Hinds] has kept Kearns onside.
“The frustrating thing is it’s two different blades of grass colour-wise. I’m just sick to death of it to be honest and it’s not just me is it? I think everyone says it. I’ve just been in [to see the officials]. They’ll review it – that’s it. I just think it’s embarrassing really.”
Everton stand firm to pick up first win
Liverpool maintained their pressure for a time, and almost took the lead again when Holland thrashed her effort against the bar, but Everton eventually began to settle and worked out how to bypass the hosts’ press.
Sorensen’s side started to control possession and found joy down the right wing as Nicoline Sorensen was able to exploit space behind by Hinds when she joined Liverpool’s attack.
The Toffees were rewarded when Finnigan beat Liverpool debutant Sophie Roman Haug in the air to head it past goalkeeper Rachael Laws in front of the Anfield Road end and silence the crowd.
“Top-scorer, catch me if you can!” Finnigan joked afterwards. “Set-plays is something we have an advantage in this year so it’s something we target. I’m confident and I back myself if I get a chance.
“We’ve got a good record [in the derby] and we definitely didn’t want that to come to an end today, so I’m absolutely delighted and so proud of the girls. We really dug in towards the end and got a deserved three points.”
Everton looked more and more comfortable as the match wore on, while Liverpool were short of ideas and showed their frustrations.
Beard switched to a back four midway through the second half and that improved things to an extent but Everton adapted and were defensively sound up until the final whistle.
Wing-back Heather Payne was particularly impressive and almost teed up Toni Duggan for a late goal after Snoeijs struck the crossbar and forced a smart save from goalkeeper Laws.
There was a glimmer of hope for Liverpool in the final minutes as Natasha Flint came close with a powerful effort from the edge of the box which flew inches over the bar but the Reds, spurred on by a restless home crowd, could not find an equaliser.
In the end, the 23,088 in attendance witnessed similar celebrations at full-time as Everton once again confirmed their superiority with a result which could prove to be the catalyst for their season after a disappointing start.
“The first five minutes after losing Lucy [Hope], we were a little shaky. We don’t have a direct replacement at the minute because Sara Holmgaard and Elise Stenevik are out [injured],” said Everton boss Sorensen.
“We had to settle after that. I think until around 75 minutes we had fine control and could have scored a second goal. Of course it gets scrappy at the end. But I’m very pleased.
“It was really nice because it was so hectic in the last few minutes and we saw it out. I had a lot of emotions. I forgot to say thanks for the game to Matt [Beard] and I think he was a little mad at me but hopefully I can make it up to him.”
- 23BonnerSubstituted forFlintat 60′minutes
- 2KoivistoSubstituted forMatthewsat 61′minutes
- 14HöbingerSubstituted forLundgaardat 81′minutes
- 12HindsBooked at 77mins
- 7KearnsSubstituted forEnderbyat 61′minutes
- 10HaugSubstituted forLawleyat 61′minutes
- 1BrosnanBooked at 90mins
- 19PayneBooked at 78mins
- 8VanhaevermaetBooked at 88mins
- 22GalliSubstituted forHolmgaardat 73′minutes
- 17HopeSubstituted forWheelerat 3′minutes
- 10BennisonSubstituted forOlesenat 73′minutes
- 14SørensenSubstituted forDugganat 73′minutes
- 11BissellSubstituted forSnoeijsat 56′minutes
- Abigail Byrne
Match ends, Liverpool Women 0, Everton Women 1.
Second Half ends, Liverpool Women 0, Everton Women 1.
Attempt missed. Grace Fisk (Liverpool Women) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Ceri Holland with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Liverpool Women. Conceded by Clare Wheeler.
Fuka Nagano (Liverpool Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Karen Holmgaard (Everton Women).
Attempt missed. Natasha Flint (Liverpool Women) left footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Ceri Holland with a headed pass.
Attempt missed. Melissa Lawley (Liverpool Women) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Ceri Holland.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match (Liverpool Women).
Courtney Brosnan (Everton Women) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt missed. Sofie Lundgaard (Liverpool Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.
Attempt missed. Natasha Flint (Liverpool Women) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Jenna Clark following a set piece situation.
Attempt blocked. Sofie Lundgaard (Liverpool Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Mia Enderby (Liverpool Women) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Clare Wheeler (Everton Women).
Foul by Karoline Olesen (Everton Women).
Grace Fisk (Liverpool Women) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Justine Vanhaevermaet (Everton Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Justine Vanhaevermaet (Everton Women).