A gallant effort by the Blues saw them stifle the RS for long periods before succumbing to close range headers from Robertson and Origi to settle the outcome in their favour.
The Merseyside Derby is always a game that carries massive significance for the respective fan bases and none moreso than this one. The hosts having already lifted the Carabao Cup are still competing on three further fronts and an unprecedented quadruple while the visitors, our belovedly frustrating Everton, are in a desperate struggle to stave off the threat of relegation to retain Premier League status for another year.
Needing a win to keep the pressure on defending champions Manchester City, after their thrashing of Watford , the RS and their cult (no, not a spelling error) following would love nothing better than to throw a major spanner into the Everton survival works.
In his pre-match press conference, Klipitty Klopp was asked if there was more riding on the outcome of this Derby and he mused, “Maybe yes, but these derbies never lacked intensity, to be honest. I love intensity in football, I love physicality in football but just in the rulebook and just make sure that we all stick to that, don’t go over the top, these kind of things, [don’t] make it like in the ‘good old times’, let me say it like this, and even we suffered from these situations. I just want to have a very intense, very physical and legally-aggressive football game but not more, because we play games after the derby as well – we should not forget, all of us.” Sounded rather like an early ‘get into the referees head’ attack from the German but, we’ll lay odds the first crunching tackle/foul comes from them.
Anyway when asked whether there were any fitness issues in the squad, Klopp said: “Not that I know yet. No other problems. Firmino is getting better and better. It’s just uncomfortable, painful. Today it’s his first day on the pitch, so there’s still two days to go, so maybe. If he gives the thumbs-up then he will be involved. And not, then we wait another few days, but then I think after that it should be possible.”
He named his starting line-up: Allison, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk (c), Robertson, Thiago, Fabinho, Keita, Salah, Mane and Jota.
With Burnley having beaten Southampton on Thursday, the Blues last-gasp equaliser against Leicester took on extra significance as it maintained 17th place in the table coming into this weekend but, that changed dramtically before kick-off as Burnley overcame Wolves in the early game and that result saw them climb above the Blues who, correspondingly, clipped into the bottom three. Blues fans need to remember though that with games in hand, our destiny and Premier League survival status in entirely in our own hands !!!
And there was no hiding from the task ahead of him and his team when Blues boss Frank Lampard noted, “It is a huge fixture and I am very proud to be managing this football club and going into a game this size,” insisting his side would not stray the wrong side of the law in a bid to unsettle their hosts before adding, “I have watched it from afar many times and marvelled at the atmosphere and history of the game, so I am very happy to be involved. This game is a one-off, it brings different energy. The reality is, we are going up against one of the best teams in the world, on current form. We will prepare as we always do, with an idea of how we want to play. I expect passion, fight and desire, there is not a gameplan that will work without those things.”
Giving an indication of how he’s been thinking he continued, “The first thing is to do well defensively, you are never safe against Liverpool. They can always give you problems, whether forcing pressure or on the counter-attack. We have to deal with that, first and foremost, then… when we have the ball, give them problems. There won’t be time on the ball, we have to be brave, accept it and play. We want to move the ball and have possession… we can’t keep giving it back to Liverpool, we need to be faultless.”
In terms of team selection for the 240th Derby, Lampard advised, “We have a couple of small injuries. Donny van de Beek won’t be fit, he has a small injury in his groin area. Andre Gomes has another small problem which keeps him out this weekend. On Yerry, that’s a decision I’ll have to make closer to the game because of the tight turnaround between games. He’s an important player for us and we must understand we have six more games after this one. I’ll have good communication with Yerry to make the right decision for us.” On striker Calvert-Lewin’s unfortunate run of injuries this season and his ongoing quadricep issue, Lampard added: “Nobody is a machine. It is a tough, tough industry. There are a lot of demands on the players. It can happen to players, where they have a run of bad luck, and one injury leads to another. Nobody is infallible and Dominic has had a bad run.”
Having weighed up all the available options, Lampard named his starting eleven: Pickford, Coleman (c), Holgate, Godfrey, Mykolenko, Doucoure, Allan, Iwobi, Gordon, Gray and Richarlison.
Stuart Attwell was the duly appointed referee.
And things went awry in the pre-game warm-up as Ben Godfrey left the field and it was confirmed he would play no part, Michael Keane his replacement from the bench.
A steady start by the Blues saw them win a free kick as Gordon was fouled, Gray seeing his direct attempt hit the wall and nothing other than a throw-in to them ensue. Vitaliy Mykolenko with a nice tackle denied Salah and Alexander-Arnold got away with a push on Gordon before Fabinho caught Richarlison in the face, inadvertently.
The Blues playing a clear 4-5-1, with Richy the lone front man, looking to clog the midfield and hopefully break effectively, and through the first ten minutes, the plan worked well. Van Dijk blocked a Gray shot after some nice interplay between Gray, Iwobi and Richarlison worked the former Leicester striker into a good area.
Doucoure with a smart interception released Gordon who again appeared fouled by Alexander-Arnold, the referee decided otherwise. A third coming together did finally see Alexander-Arnold penalised for a push in the back of Gordon, Seamus Coleman asking the referee how many more he was going to let go before using a yellow card.
Mane curled a shot high and wide of the target after the RS had patiently passed the ball around, the Blues defending sensibly, not diving into needless tackles, and through twenty minutes, despite the RS having had lots of possession, it remained scoreless.
Richarlison won the games first corner, Gordon from the left swinging it in but Mane cleared easily before a long ball from Pickford found Gordon to gain the RS area where he went down and was booked for diving over the leg of Keita.
Coleman and Jota came together with the latter swinging an elbow at the Blues skipper, referee Attwell chose to admonish both with just a quiet word. The free kick saw Holgate get a telling touch to concede a corner, that was well defended by the Blues. Allan conceded a second corner and Keane hooked it clear as the ball arrived in the six yard area, and half an hour gone – so far so good.
Robertson with a cross from the right found Jota, his first time effort going wide at the near post, JP annoying the cult with a bit of time-wasting on the resulting goal kick. A good tackle by Richarlison on Keita saw him break forward to play Doucoure into space on the right, only to slightly scuff his eventual shot and see it go wide of the far post.
It might not have been very pretty but Everton were doing their job as well as Frank Lampard could have expected, not allowing the RS to get into any real flowing rhythm and contesting challenges effectively in all areas of the pitch and encouraging strains of “We are the Goodison Gang” to echo around the ground.
Mykolenko with a timely challenge denied Jota at the expense of a third RS corner, Richarlison with a solid clearing header before alarmingly going down and needing some attention as we entered the final five minutes of the first half.
Salah played a one-two with Mane to then see his curling effort sail miles wide and high and herald a chorus of jeers from the Blues fans behind the goal. Richarlison again went down, the ref played on and Doucoure stopped play with a crude challenge that saw him booked, and too many players from both sides look to become involved, and Mane was booked too.
Two added minutes were signalled and JP again made the most of an easy cross to eat up a few more seconds. A long clearance by JP got the ball down the other end and referee Attwell called time on a half that was a definite moral victory for the Blues – more please in the second half.
Half Time: 0-0
No changes by either manager for the start of the second half that saw the RS win an early corner off Demarai Gray, Holgate with a clearing header and Keita screwing a shot well wide of the target. Everton had settled into the defensive formation that served them well through the opening half, frustrating the RS with stoic defence while looking to something of rare forays forward.
The RS were trying to play at a quicker tempo to try and stretch the Blues and another good clearance by Mykolenko again prevented a ball intended for Salah reaching him. A break by the Blues saw Iwobi release Gordon at pace and under pressure and a push from Matip, he went down in the area, referee Attwell thought about and then, inevitably, ruled in the RS favour again. They countered to win a corner that JP punched clear.
Another Blues break saw Iwobi find Gordon again, his shot from a tight angle going across the face of goal and out for a goal kick but, a few chances were being created. Jota forced Allan into conceding another corner and Keane again rose to head clear, and another break begun by Iwobi saw Gordon race away again to be scythed down by Alexander-Arnold who was rightly booked, Mykolenko with the free kick found the head of Alex Iwobi but it sailed across the face of goal and wide.
Coleman deflected a Robertson shot out for a corner that he himself cleared and on the hour mark, the RS made a double change as Diaz and Origi replaced Keita and Mane respectively. Cruelly for Everton, less than two minutes later they fell behind as a Salah cross was met by Robertson to head home from close range.
Could Everton fight back and find an equaliser or would floodgates open as the RS poured forward with Diaz winning another corner? That was defended but, Salah won another this time from the RS right that Richarlison put behind for another that led to Salah firing over from twelve yards… with Allan booked for protesting that JP had twice been impeded by Jota.
Just over twenty minutes to go and with the RS coming on strongly, Diaz won another corner as Coleman deflected a shot over the bar, Richarlison again clearing at the near post. Would Frank Lampard make changes to try and wrestle a point from the game? And when Richarlison chipped a pass into the path of Gordon, he got away from Matip to find Iwbo and then onto Gray for a rasping shot that flew inches wide of the RS goal.
Dele Alli replaced Allan in the 73rd minute and Salah won another corner off Mykolenko, Everton clearing unceremoniously with a long punt downfield. Gordon on another left wing charge to win a throw-in and use the stoppage to withdraw Gray in favour of Salomon Rondon. The RS survived a free kick taken by Mykolenko that could easily have rebounded into their own net after a poor punch by Allison. Richarlison found Dele Alli and Robertson cleared hastily before Iwobi could arrive to preserve the RS lead.
Into the final ten minutes and a miskick by Holgate fell nicely into the arms of JP, the Blues having switched Gordon to the right so Alli could stay left and the RS brounght on Horrendouson for Jota with eight minutes to play.
Pickford with a good save to deny Keita as the shot was deflected by Coleman, the resulting corner disappointingly leading to a second close range headed goal from Origi in the 85th minute.
With the cult singing their song of homage to a fat Spanish waiter and ‘going down,’ the result – whilst not completely unexpected – was a tad harsh on Everton who had belied their lowly position in the table with a resolute performance. Dele Alli picked up a yellow card for a foul on Henderson, and moments later Henderson did his utmost to get Richarlison sent off, the Brazilian getting a yellow for his troubles.
Three added minutes were announced and that was seen out by the RS and they took the points.