Liverpool exploited the defensive frailties of Everton with a series of telling through balls and clinical finishing that saw them race into an early two-goal lead and then further extend it after Michael Keane pulled one goal back.
The task could hardly have been tougher for Everton as they set out on the shortest away trip of the season as they crossed Stanley Park to take on league leaders Liverpool. The domestically unbeaten Reds were looking to recover an eleven point lead over Manchester City with a win, and in so doing plunge Everton further into crisis.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp was without his number one goalie Alisson having been red-carded against Brighton but even with Fabinho, Clyne and Matip all unavailable, he was still looking to field a powerful line up for the first Derby of the season.
Klopp, who’s often regarded as something of an egomaniac spoke generously, when asked about Marco Silva and his situation, in his pre-match press meeting saying, “Of course I have sympathy because I know how difficult the life of a manager can be. But the last thing Marco needs now is that I feel sorry for him – I don’t. But I am really on his side because I know about the job. The table tells the full truth in May, not now. Go through Everton’s squad, it is really good. It’s just not clicking 100% but I don’t know why.”
For this 8.15pm kick-off, Klopp duly submitted his team sheet reading: Adrian, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Milner (c), Lallana, Shaqiri, Sane and Origi.
Following the heartbreak added-on time loss away at Leicester, Everton knew they’d need to dig deep and play at least as well if not better than they did for the first hour on Sunday. Marco Silva had some decisions to make, notably on his defensive formation – would he stick with the three centre backs or revert to a more conventional back four to combat the likes of Sane, Salah and Firmino.
Captain Seamus Coleman and Fabian Delph were not expected to feature but Theo Walcott was available again with Bernard too vying for a recall to the starting line-up. Brushing off more speculation over his position as Everton manager, in his press conference Silva noted, “Nothing changed in my feeling for the job. At some times in the season I was more happy. It is what it is. When you play at Anfield, it is a fantastic atmosphere to play in. It is a special game for the city and the fans. For sure, it will be a tough game. Let’s go and enjoy it and embrace the challenge. Let’s go there to play.”
Selecting his side to try and stop Klopp and Liverpool achieving a club record 32nd top-flight game without defeat, Silva named his starting eleven as per Sundays’ game at Leicester: Pickford, Sidibe, Holgate, Mina, Keane, Digne, Davies, Sigurdsson (c), Iwobi, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.
Much to the chagrin of many Evertonians, Mike Dean was the referee and Martin Atkinson was on VAR duty.
Robertson getting on the end of a long ball from van Dijk got a good cross into the area where Mane headed over with just a minute gone on the clock. And inside six minutes, Liverpool opened the scoring as Lallana found Mane and he curled a peach of a ball into the path of Origi who took it around the onrushing Pickford to slide the ball into the unguarded goal.
On ten minutes, Mason Holgate did well to get back, dispossess and clear from Mane after he’d got on the end of a long ball from van Dijk as the home side settled quickly on the back of the early lead. Referee Dean needed to have words with Davies and Robertson after the latter had fouled and then fallen on Davies and the Everton player reacted.
Liverpool doubled their lead on 16 minutes as Alexander Arnold sprayed a long ball left to right for Mane who too easily got away from Sidibe and his pass into the Everton area was swept past Pickford for 2-0 by Shaqiri.
Alex Iwobi took Everton’s first corner after a miskick from Alexander-Arnold and the Blues kept the pressure on with Davies feeding Iwobi and his ball into the six yard box saw Michael Keanebeat Adrian to halve the deficit just past the twenty minute mark.
The game had a bit of edge to it as Mane and Holgate exchanged words and Richarlison took exception to a sly stamp on his leg by Alexander-Arnold. A fine ball out of defence from Holgate found Iwobi and he in turn found DCL to get into the area and go down under pressure from van Dijk, not surprisingly claims for a foul and penalty went unheeded by the referee and VAR.
On 26 minutes, a second, more more visible stamp by Alexander-Arnold, this time on Digne, saw the RS yellow-carded when it could so easily have been a straight red.
Half an hour gone and having gone two goals behind early on, Everton had recovered somewhat only to then have Richarlison booked for a foul on Shaqiri and then be undone by yet another long ball, this time from Lovren that picked out Origi and he took it down and lobbed Pickford to restore the two-goal margin.
Everton now had nothing to lose and made an early change on 35 minutes with Bernard coming on for Djibril Sidibe, the Blues reverting to a conventional back four with Holgate moving into the right fullback position.
Shaqiri and Mane combined down the Everton left side and Pickford was called upon to dive full length to punch a cross from Mane to safety. Sigurdsson to Richarlison saw the Brazilian lay the ball back to for Iwobi to shoot, but his side-footed effort sailed horribly wide.
Shortly before half time, Richarlison, fed by Iwobi, fired the ball low across the Liverpool six yard area and Lovren did enough to prevent DCL getting on the end of it. But worse was to follow as from the resulting corner, van Dijk headed clear for Mane to release Alexander-Arnold to race away down the left flank and into the Everton half, he fed Mane and he swept home the fourth goal from the edge of the penalty area.
Everton though were not finished and they put together a fine move that saw Bernard get out wide on the left and his cross was missed by Lovren and it hit a diving Richarlison on the shoulder to hit the back of the net to again halve the arrears at the interval.
Half Time: 4-2
No changes by either side during the interval saw Everton begin the second half in a slightly more aggressive manner, pressing higher up the field and not allowing Liverpool to settle. A foul by Lallana on DCL gave the Blues a free kick that saw Digne fire too high and cause Adrian no concern.
Liverpool won a corner when a long range shot was deflected behind and Richarlison was on the near post to get behind for a second that the Blues cleared only for Origi to get forward and win a third in two minutes.
Just before the hour mark, Moise Kean stripped off and he replaced DCL with thirty minutes to play and straight into the game to win a corner on the right hand side. Sigurdsson took it and Keane climbed highest to get a firm header on target but straight at Adrian.
Whether Liverpool had taken their foot off the gas or not, Everton were still looking to compete and press them back albeit without the cutting edge to overly trouble the league leaders.
Tom Davies saw a yellow card for a scything challenge on Alexander-Arnold on 66 minutes ahead of Kean chasing a long ball only to foul Wijnaldum in the process.
Marco Silva made his final change of the game bringing Morgan Schneiderlin on for Tom Davies in the 72nd minute. Liverpool responded with a double change, Henderson and Firmino replacing Lallana and Origi respectively.
The game now was in danger of going flat, Liverpool with a two-goal cushion didn’t need to chase the game while Everton seemed incapable of raising their game for a final 15 minute push and at least worry the hosts.
Sigurdsson did well to rob Alexander-Arnold and cross towards Richarlison who did enough to win a corner, but once again the set piece brought nothing. Liverpool countered on the back of yet another long ball over the top that found Mane away from Mina but he put his shot wide of the target.
Sigurdsson sent Digne in towards the bye line and he dinked a cross to the back post with nobody there to get on the end of it. Gomez then replaced Alexander-Arnold for the final seven minutes.
Two late chances came one to either side, first Mane got clear and delayed allowing Holgate to get back and clear and then a great through ball from Iwobi for Moise Kean saw him fire a low shot that went just wide.
And Liverpool went nap in the final minute as van Dijk found Firmino, he skinned Mason Holgate to find Wijnaldum and his low daisy-cutter beat Pickford for 5-2.