Having fought back to level with a fine move and finish from Gylfi Sigurdsson, Everton exited the FA Cup with Virgil van Dijk scoring the 84th minute winner.
The FA Cup, certainly for older supporters, is still a magical competition, six games, win the lot and a superb, folk lore riddled trophy is lofted on high and legions of fans happily go berserk dancing back down Wembley Way.
This years journey to the national stadium almost inevitably saw the Blues drawn second and away to ‘them,’ that lot across the park – FC Big Stand.
For this second ‘derby’ game of the season, so quickly after the league game that ended with Klippitty cry-arsing like a stuck pig about a correctly awarded penalty and looking a complete buffoon when all the assembled media personnel suggested the decision had been correctly given, the Reds manager was unable to call upon his so-called ‘fab four’ for his starting line-up. Nevertheless, he was able to draft in his recent defensive addition in naming: Karius, Gomez, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Milner, Mane, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Firmino.
With his first month as Everton manager behind him and having received a nomination for Manager of the Month for December, Sam Allardyce was unable to call upon any new faces with the transfer of Cenk Tosun from Besiktas still ongoing, and the Ross Barkley sage finally over, he opted for: Pickford, Martina, Jagielka (c), Holgate, Kenny, Schneiderlin, McCarthy, Bolasie, Rooney, Sigurdsson and Calvert-Lewin.
Robert (Bobby) Madley was the man entrusted by the FA to ensure fair play and smiles abounded from this potentially explosive encounter.
A relatively quiet opening to the game with Rooney involved in one strong challenge before picking up a yellow card in the sixth minute for poor challenge on Gomez. The Blues were trying to get Bolasie on the ball as much as possible to test Robertson – an interesting duel.
Charlie Can ballooned a shot well over the bar and Mane fired massively high and wide from twenty yards as the home side tried to impose themselves on a game in which the Blues were far from being overawed.
A good cross field ball from Gomez found Milner on the left for a first time shot that flashed across the face of goal before some good interplay between Rooney and Sigurdsson worked the ball to Bolasie on the right for two quick crosses that failed to find an Everton head.
Past the half hour mark with neither side on top or troubling the opposition goalie, Mane was allowed far too much space to get onto a ball from Lallana but again, he shot high and wide.
Needless to say, the half turned two minutes later when a ball into the box for Lallana saw Holgate with his arms around him, Lallana inexplicably felt the need to go down and the referee blew for the spot kick. There was contact, but dearie me, this one definitely was soft. Jordan Pickford went slightly too early and that gave Milner an easy finish from the spot.
The game erupted on 39 minutes as Holgate rather stupidly pushed Firmino over the advertising boards into the crowd, the Brazilian reacting and appearing to say something that really angered Mason. He needed to be restrained and calmed down by Schneiderlin and Jagielka before played continued with no action taken by the referee, even after a chat with the fourth official, Jonathon Moss.
Half Time: 1-0
An early foul by Rooney on Can had the Kopites screaming for a second yellow card before the first Everton raid of the half saw a cross for DCL steered away for a corner by Robertson. Sam Allardyce erred on the side of caution by bringing Rooney off for Ademola Lookman on 52 minutes.
Lallana through the middle saw him shoot wide when he really should have at least tested Pickford, before a Sigurdsson free kick nearly caught Karius out. Lookman was causing Liverpool problems down their left side.
As Liverpool tried to turn the screw, Mason Holgate was staying cool and calm in the centre of the defence, ably matched by Phil Jagielka having a fine game too.
Pickford made a fine save to deny Robertson with a fierce shot to the near post before McCarthy was booked on 59 minutes for a foul on Milner. Liverpool were still having the better of the play and a free kick from the Ox found van Dijk for a free header that was gathered at the second attempt by Pickford.
Everton weren’t panicking though and when Holgate made a superb challenge to deny Mane at the expense of a corner, the break from the set piece saw the Blues draw level. Bolasie under pressure found Lookman on the left and he made ground before cutting inside to play a ball into the path of the on-rushing Jagielka (?) who calmly stopped and laid the ball back into the path of Gylfi Sigurdsson for a cool, calm right footer that left Karius rooted on 67 minutes.
Wijnaldum replaced Lallana with twenty minutes left, Gomez escaped a red card for another foul on Lookman and Klippity made his final changes on 76 minutes, Solanke and Alexander-Arnold replacing Milner and Gomez.
Oumar Niasse replaced DCL on 81 minutes ahead of Liverpool getting the game-winner. A corner from the Liverpool left from Oxlade-Chamberlain saw Pickford hesitate and van Dijk capped a decent debut with the headed goal to knock the Blues out of the cup.
Tom Davies made a cameo appearance replacing McCarthy, Solanke saw yellow for a foul on Bolasie and despite four added minutes, Everton couldn’t find a second equaliser with Bolasie blazing over from distance with Sigurdsson and Kenny both in space screaming for the pass.
Full Time: 2-1