Izzy Christiansen’s early strike proved decisive as Everton secured a well-deserved 1-0 victory over city rivals Liverpool in a Continental Cup clash at Walton Hall Park on Wednesday night.
The Toffees had numerous chances to extend their advantage, with Hayley Raso, Nicoline Sorensen and Damaris Egurrola all going close for Willie Kirk’s side.
The result maintains Everton’s hopes of qualifying from the Continental Cup group stage.
With one game left to play against Manchester United, the Blues are second in Group B, three points behind leaders Manchester City. The six group winners qualify for the quarter-finals along with the two best runners-up.
Everton took just five minutes to hit the front at Walton Hall Park.
Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah expertly controlled a lofted through pass before deftly nudging the ball into the path of Christiansen, who slotted into the bottom corner from close range.
Everton bossed the opening stages, passing the ball with precision, pace and purpose.
A sweeping team move almost led to the Blues’ second goal on 23 minutes. Grace Clinton and Poppy Pattinson linked up well on the left flank and the full-back whipped a dangerous cross into the area that was fractions away from finding the onrushing Molly Pike.
Everton stopper Tinja Riikka Korpela was forced into her first save of note on the half-hour mark.
Rinsola Babajide darted forward and slipped a pass into Amalie Thestrup - Korpela safely gathered the striker’s well-struck effort.
Everton Academy graduate Grace Clinton then had a golden opportunity to score her first senior Blues goal.
A perfectly-weighted through ball from skipper Lucy Graham sent Clinton through on one-on-one with Liverpool keeper Rylee Foster – she made a good connection with her shot but it whistled past the far post.
Liverpool’s best chance of the opening 45 minutes came on the stroke of half-time. Missy Bo Kearns’ low, driven corner delivery was met by Rachel Furness, whose first-time shot went inches wide.
Everton had the first opening of the second half. Christiansen sent in a free-kick from the right flank – Liverpool scrambled clear but the ball fell invitingly to Boye-Hlorkah on the edge of the box, who hammered a shot over the crossbar.
Liverpool struggled to create any clear chances in the second half as the Everton backline defended with determination and authority.
Everton almost doubled their advantage 15 minutes from time – substitute Hayley Raso unleashed a fizzing drive that was stopped on the line by Liverpool defender Niamh Fahey.
The away side needed another goalline clearance moments later. After Damaris Egurrola’s header struck the post, former Everton player Taylor Hinds thumped the ball clear.
Raso turned creator on 85 minutes when she accelerated clear down the right and clipped in a cross for Nicoline Sorensen, but the Dane’s effort went over the bar.
The electric Australian then forced a splendid one-handed save from Foster with another powerful shot.
Everton’s missed chances were not to prove costly, however, as the Blues saw out victory without alarm.
Kirk: I Hope Derby Victory 'Makes Evertonians Proud'
Willie Kirk declared the importance of delivering a result that “makes Evertonians proud” after the Blues beat Liverpool 1-0 in a Merseyside derby showdown at Walton Hall Park on Wednesday night.
Izzy Christiansen’s fifth-minute strike proved to be the winner in the Continental Cup clash, with the victory keeping the Toffees’ hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition alive.
Everton were the more progressive team throughout the derby contest, with Grace Clinton, Hayley Raso and Nicoline Sorensen all going close to getting on the scoresheet.
Liverpool's main goalscoring opportunities came from set-pieces but Everton defended resolutely to secure a deserved victory.
Kirk revealed his satisfaction after his side ensured they went into the international break on a high - but outlined the elements of Everton’s performance which require improvement.
“Winning the derby is so important,” he said.
“For all those fans watching the game at home, who would love to be here, it was important we done a job for them.
“Hopefully they’ll be proud of the performance – and I’m sure they’ll be delighted with the derby win.
“I’m pleased with the three points, pleased with the derby victory and pleased to end a run of frustrating results, so all three boxes are ticked with that one result.
“I thought we made hard work of it, though.
"We never really controlled the game. Liverpool got their tails up in the last 10 or 15 minutes and had a good go at us, and our best chances were on the break at that stage.
"We need to be clinical, like we were at the start of the season in our wins over Bristol City, Aston Villa and Birmingham.
“I thought they were three real clinical performances. We’ve got to get back to those ways, we’ve got to convert more chances and find more control in our game.
“We have got technicians on the pitch who should be able to control the game better.”
Seventeen-year-old midfield talent Clinton was one of Everton’s standout performers on the night.
Her crisp, accurate passing and close control impressed, and she almost marked her first Merseyside derby with a maiden senior goal for the Blues.
Clinton timed her run to perfection to race onto a pinpoint Lucy Graham pass but saw her powerful shot whistle past the post.
Manager Kirk insists the Academy graduate has the potential to be a key player for Everton for years to come.
“I think she was one of the best players on the park,” he said.
“She was excellent. She showed great composure, way beyond her years.
“She’s only 17 but looked like someone who has three or four years of experience under her belt.
“She brings calm to the game. She manipulates the ball really well. The kid’s got a great future.
"That future will be at Everton. We’re excited to help her with her development and make her as good as she can be.”