Everton Ladies will not progress past the group stage of this season’s Continental Tyres Cup after a 3-0 defeat to Manchester United Women at Southport’s Merseyrail Community Stadium on Thursday night.
The Blue Girls were made to pay for a below-par first half in which they failed to create any chances as their Championship opponents piled on the pressure and grabbed three goals to ensure their progress into the last eight.
Having reached the quarter-finals of the competition last year, Everton, meanwhile, can no longer make the top two of Group Two North going into their final game of the cup against Liverpool Ladies on Sunday.
The Blue Girls – who did not have boss Willie Kirk in their dugout due to an agreement with United when he made the switch from their opponents at the start of December - struggled to find their rhythm in the opening stages and were made to pay as the visitors took the lead with the first chance of the game on 12 minutes.
Martha Harris found space on the right-hand side and whipped in a cross which was met by the head of Lauren James who looped a finish over Kirstie Levell.
The setback failed to stir the Blue Girls as United doubled their lead with a carbon copy of their opener five minutes later. James turned provider this time, centering the ball from the right and Leah Galton was on hand to plant a header into the far corner.
It was nearly 3-0 when Katie Zelem’s hopeful ball into the box was helped by the wind and, with Levell scampering back, the Everton keeper was relieved to see the ball cannon back off the left-hand post.
The hosts – managed by Kirk’s assistant Chris Roberts for the night - could not get on the ball to muster a way back into the contest and there was a huge sigh of relief just past the half-hour mark as James headed Alex Greenwood’s corner past Levell but was adjudged to have pushed her marker in the build-up.
There was no let-up on 37 minutes, though, as Galton was brought down on the edge of the area by Megan Finnigan as she darted towards goal. Zelem stepped up to take the free-kick and arched a 20-yard effort into the top left-hand corner.
The second half pattern did not look to be shifting and it took a double substitution on 52 minutes before Everton managed to work an opening.
Faye Bryson and Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah came on for Dominique Bruinenberg and Claudia Walker and, after a mazy run from skipper Gabby George released Inessa Kaagman down the left, the Holland international’s cut back was fired wide by Boye-Hlorkah.
A sight at goal seemed to kick Everton into life and they were unlucky not to reduce the deficit with an hour gone as Magill did well to work an opening down the left channel. Her cross found Kaagman who took a touch before firing a shot into the legs of United keeper Siobhan Chamberlain.
Having upped their game, the hosts nearly went four goals down on 68 minutes when the impressive James glided a through ball to put Mollie Green clean through but the former Blue Girl was denied by a smart save from Levell.
To their credit, Everton kept battling away to reduce the deficit and the effective Boye-Hlorkah was inches away from finding Kaagman in the area with a delightful angled pass, before seeing her rasping drive turned out for a corner by Chamberlain.
It proved too little too late, though, as the Blue Girls were made to pay for a lacklustre opening half which proved the difference.