Everton 2-0 Liverpool

Superb Blues win memorable Derby. ​

Goals either side of half time from Jarrad Branthwaite and Dominic Calvert-Lewin saw Everton thoroughly deserve a memorable victory over their fiercest rivals to all but guarantee Premeir League status and blunt the visitors title aspirations.

Throughout the history of the Merseyside Derby there have been many pivotal games, FA Cup games, League Cup Finals, FA Cup Finals where one team has triumphed and the other has lost. Rarely though have there been Derby games such as tonight’s in which a winner would have claims for double celebrations.

If Everton overcome the hot favourites Liverpool, the three points gained would almost certainly guarantee the Blues retain their ever-present Premier League status for at least one more season and almost certainly guarantee that the Reds title challenge falls on stony ground.

For Liverpool, a win could mean almost the exact opposite in that their target of being champions remains possible and extend the nail-biting of Evertonians dreading the thought of relegation.

One thing these doubled edged scenarios did guarantee was a white-hot atmosphere inside Goodison Park come kick-off time, the Grand Old Lady providing a grand old stage for the game to be played upon.

It’s an old-fashioned term, but win your headers, win your tackles and win your races,” advised Blues boss Sean Dyche when talking about the need for his side to at least match the intensity he expected the opposition to display. He continued adding, “That’s for every position. You can win your battles in a different way. If you are a centre forward, you might win it with your cleverness, rather than your physicality. So you know there are different ways to win your battles. You want those individual battles for each player to also connect as a team. If you get that right you have a better chance of getting what you want which is to win.”

The Blues have a decent home record against them from across the park, having only lost two of the last eleven ‘derbies’ staged at Goodison and Dyche added, “I’m well aware of all the records people keep telling me and all the rest of it. I am looking forward to the game, and derbies are the games for the people where they live. I didn’t grow up here so I won’t have that depth of understanding. What I do understand, is how important it is to be Everton’s manager, that is for sure. In all games, and in particular this one for the obvious reason.”

With Beto ruled out due to the concussion protocols following his head collision on Sunday Dyche had Youssef Chermiti on stand-by for a Derby debut if Dominic Calvert-Lewin wasn’t passed fit to start after picking up a knock against Forest.

Come seven o’clock and the team announcement showed a starting eleven reading: Jordan Pickford, Ben Godfrey, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitalii Mykolenko, Jack Harrison, Idrissa Gana Gueye, James Garner, Dwight McNeil, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Having faltered against Crystal Palace and being eliminated from Europe by Atalanta, them from across the park got back to winning ways at Fulham on Sunday to keep their fading hopes of being crowned champions alive a while longer.

For manager Jurgen Klopp, this would be his final Derby and the German commented on these iconic games saying, “They are always difficult games, especially there. At home it was – I am not sure if comfortable is the right way to say it – but more comfortable at least. I think we have a pretty good record; only Carlo Ancelotti, who everybody knows is a really good manager, won at Anfield. Now it is not too important what we had in the past. This is a super-important game for us, so whatever we did in the past is not too important for this game. We just should give it a proper try there and that’s what we will do.”

Klopp was fortunate in terms of squad fitness for the short trip to Goodison, only Diogo Jota being unavailable having picked up a knock at Craven Cottage that will sideline him for at least two weeks.

With almost a full squad to select from, he named his starting line-up: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, van Dijk (c), Robertson, Jones, Szoboszlai, Mac Allister, Salah, Nunez and Diaz.

Tasked with maintaining order, our referee was Andy Madley.

A superb outlet ball from Branthwaite found Harrison and the first Blues attack saw the ball reach McNeil, his cross/shot came out to Doucoure but he couldn’t find the target, great chance though. Liverpool responded with a cross from the left through the six yard area that Mykolenko ensured was steered to safety. A superb tackle by Tarkowski launched the next attack and a great ball from Harrison found DCL and he was brought down by Alisson – VAR reviewed for offside against DCL while Blues fans waited with baited breath for a penalty. After a long delay, VAR decided in favour of Liverpool as they adjudged DCL to have been offside and the yellow card initially shown to Alisson was overturned.

Alexander-Arnold lifted a ball forward for Salah and his instant ball into the six yard area was superbly cleared out for a corner by Godfrey and the Blues defended the corner to break with Alisson rushing from his line to deny Doucoure charging forward. Ten minutes gone and to say the least the pace had been frenetic.

Mac Allister upended Gana Gueye five yards outside the Liverpool area on the left side, McNeil sending the free kick to the back post where it was met by Godfrey who saw his header hit the side netting. Another good tackle, this time by Godfrey saw him lift the ball forward to find DCL but, nobody was following up to take advantage of his knock-down header.

Harrison was fouled by Jones to give the Blues another free kick in a good position, Klopp whining at the fourth official endlessly as the free kick found Tarkowski and his header back across the six yard area found DCL who saw his header beaten clear by Alisson. Another foul on DCL saw McNeil launch the ball towards Tarkowski again, his header easily gathered by Alisson… and with twenty minutes having flown by, the direct approach of the Blues was certainly giving the visitors plenty to think about.

Another fine tackle by Ben Godfrey stopped Diaz in his tracks and the crowd responded. Liverpool won a corner on their left that Mykolenko headed clear only for the ball to be played back in to win another corner from the right that was easily defended.

Another foul on DCL, this time by Konate, earned the Blues yet another free kick that McNeil took to find Branthwaite, van Dijk clearing at the expense of a throw-in. Jones on Gana Gueye saw Klopp again whine in the ear of the fourth official before McNeil found Branthwaite, the Liverpool defence failed to clear and when the ball came back into the area, Jarrad Branthwaite saw his shot skim off Alisson and the post before spinning over the line to give the Blues a crucial 27th minute lead in his 50th game for the club. VAR reviewed for offside and this time, the review went the Blues way and Goodison erupted in celebration.

Klopp was snarling on the touchline, his side were being given a real game by Everton who had been the better side through this first half hour as a Mac Allister cross was well dealt with by Tarkowski. Nunez muffed a decent ball from Alexander-Arnold allowing the Blues to clear easily. Branthwaite back doing his day job stymied Szoboszlai and when the ball came back in for Nunez, Pickford made a good stop to deny the Uruguayan.

Diaz reacted angrily to being called for a foul on McNeil and van Dijk was rightly booked for his petulance in protesting the decision. Tarkowski headed a Robertson cross clear while Vitalii Mykolenko went down clutching his left ankle after an awkward landing and immediately, Ashley Young began to warm-up. Mykolenko limped to the sideline and looked keen to return to the play after what looked a really nasty turn of his ankle.

Another ball from Alexander-Arnold saw Nunez head down for Diaz who shot straight at Pickford and out for a corner that was defended with Mykolenko incredibly back on the field. Liverpool were desperate for an equaliser before half time and a lay off by Nunez saw Salah fire high and wide of the target.

Six added minutes were announced and Everton looked determined to see out time to take their precious lead to the dressing room as Pickford easily claimed a ball from Alexander-Arnold. Everton have had one of the best defensive records in the Premier League this season and this first half performance typified the application and organisation that Sean Dyche has been demanding. Liverpool won a late corner on the right that Robertson swung in and almost inevitably, Tarkowski was there to head clear.

And at the whistle, it was Everton who took that lead to the dressing room but, not before Klippity Klopp had raced to the visitors dressing room probably to start throwing toys out of his pram.

Half Time: 1-0

Ashley Young unsurprisingly replaced Vitalii Mykolenko for the second half as the teams returned to the field, the Ukrainian being protected from potentially causing any lasting damage to his ankle following that nasty fall.

Nunez to Robertson and Gana Gueye thumped his ball into the Park End for an early corner that saw Pickford easily save a van Dijk header. Liverpool passed the ball around looking for an opening and when it came via another cross from Robertson, Branthwaite put the ball behind for another well defended corner. Jones won a third corner off Godfrey as the visitors looked to turn the screw, again the blues defended it well before DCL unsuccessfully tried an audacious long range effort with Alisson off his line.

Everton were allowing Liverpool too much possession in the opening stages of this second half before a decent move that saw Doucoure burst down the left flank end with a tame shot from Gana Gueye fail to trouble Alisson. Young stepped up into midfield to find Harrison and he set up McNeil for a fierce shot that Alisson was happy to turn behind for a corner that McNeil sent deep to the back post where Dominic Calvert-Lewin rose like a stag in the mating season to send a towering 58th minute header down and past Alisson and Goodison erupted again… no need whatsoever for VAR this time, and the noise was deafening.

Passing thr hour mark, Everton defended another corner

Liverpool made their a triple first change on 63 minutes sending Elliott, Endo and Quansah on to replace Jones, Szoboszlai and Konate respectively but, from the restart, it was DCL flicking a long ball on for Harrison and McNeil saw his effort blocked out for a corner that came out to Garner to win another off Alexander-Arnold. McNeil again sent it long and again Alexander-Arnold put it behind and this time the header back across goal from Tarkowski saw Branthwaite head wide from a slightly offside position.

Tarkowski with a superb challenge prevented Salah getting a shot away, at the expense of a corner that again was well defended. Pickford acrobatically punched away another cross from Alexander-Arnold as Liverpool kept trying to come forward and a shot by Diaz hit the post and came out with Everton hurriedly putting the ball behind for another defended corner.

Into the final twenty minutes and Everton were defending their hard-earned lead tremendously well while looking to catch Liverpool on the break when they could. Amadou Onana was the Blues second change on 74 minutes as Idrissa Gana Gueye came off to a standing ovation from the home crowd.

Doucoure picking up crumbs sent a cross to the back post where Harrison couldn’t direct his header on target and we passed the 80-minute mark with the Blues way behind in the possession stats but, the only stat that truly counts is goals and we had two to their none.

Alexander-Arnold blazed a shot high and wide as Spirit of the Blues again rang around the Grand Old Lady and Pickford again made easy work of a deep cross from Elliott. Doucoure was caught by Quansah with no foul given by referee Madley before Klopp made two further changes with Robertson and Alexander-Arnold withdrawn for Tsimikas and Gomez on 83 minutes.

DCL was clattered in midfield and Everton ate up some time as Pickford made his way forward to launch the ball long. Garner was upended by Endo just outside the area to win a free kick that Young ballooned into the Gwladys Street. Godfrey took no chances in conceding another late corner that came out to Elliott for a looping shot that Jordan Pickford superbly turned over the top and the resulting corner was again well defended.

Five added minutes were announced with Goodison bouncing in anticipation of a victory not one of the pundits would have predicted and chants of ‘you lost the league at Goodison Park’ taunting the visitors and their rather subdued support. Diaz and Mac Allister were both yellow carded and DCL was replaced to a standing ovation with Youssef Chermiti getting the cameo appearance.

Pickford with another good stop denied Salah

For all the disappointments of the season, tonight’s performance was nigh on perfect as they’d taken their chances and defended in exemplary fashion to fully deserve the three points and bragging rights.

As for a Blues Man of the Match – all of ‘em !!!

Full Time: 2-0

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