“It has ended!” proclaimed Jurgen Klopp, two years of hurt was over. It was back in April 2016 that Divock Origi was on the receiving end of a wild Ramiro Funes Mori tackle in a Merseyside derby that not only prevented him from appearing in a Europa League final but also could have ended the young striker’s career.
Since then it has been two years of hell for the Belgian, struggling to recover both mentally and physically. Sunday afternoon and another Merseyside derby match offered closure. “He can finish the book and everything will be fine from now on,” said Klopp after the match.
It would have been near on impossible to predict that it would have been Origi’s name that the Kop would be singing at the final whistle, but so it proved. It was his touch, his desire and his anticipation that gave Liverpool the victory over Everton in the 96th minute and kept Klopp’s side on the coattails of Manchester City.
Unexpected ending, unexpected scorer
If the hero was unexpected then so was the scenario. It had Klopp on the pitch hugging his goalkeeper, Alisson, halfway in Liverpool’s half. It was utter bedlam and Origi was the cause. With a fixture run containing Manchester United, Arsenal and City as well as the do-or-die match against Napoli during the next four weeks, points dropped here – albeit in the most competitive Merseyside derby for some time – would have lessened the optimism.
For the 90-odd minutes prior to Liverpool’s goal, both sides had created chances but to the annoyance and frustration of the entire stadium, none had been taken. For long spells Everton had been superb, attacking with style, defending with single-mindedness and playing with a renewed ambition that has rarely been seen on derby day in recent times.
The reality is that Everton’s miserable run against their city rivals is now 16 league matches without a win, going back to October 2010, and to lose in such devastating circumstances was even difficult for the most hardened Toffee. They contributed, however, to an absorbing contest; the first half particularly in which the football flowed frenetically and also with quality. Their progress under Marco Silva was only highlighted by this performance rather than undermined.
Improved Everton worthy of a draw
What was so striking about Everton’s performance was the impact that the new signings are having, and despite the ferocity of it being their first derby, they all came through with their reputations only enhanced. They were not weighed down by Everton’s failings of the past; there was no fear factor at play here. Yerry Mina was commanding at centre half and Lucas Digne impressed down the left flank. Andre Gomes was outstanding in the centre of the blue midfield and conducted proceedings effectively.
At half time it could, it probably should, have been 2-2, following suit of the North London derby which had only just finished minutes prior to kick-off at Anfield. Both sides spurned chances that they surely had to take. Mina headed wide from close-range in the opening minutes and the quick tempo was set. Liverpool dominated the ball but the visitors were dangerous on the counter, especially when Gomes was involved in the intricate build up play towards Richarlison.
It was Gomes who also had the visitors’ best chance when he forced Alisson into a point-blank save with a header in the 20th minute. Joe Gomez did well to hook the ricochet off the goalline when it appeared that a goal was inevitable.
Chances created but not finished
Liverpool took control but similarly to recent matches failed to take the half – and even clear-cut – chances that they finished with ease last season. Mohamed Salah chipped a through ball towards Sadio Mane but he subsequently fired over Jordan Pickford’s crossbar.
Everton were well worth a share of the points and Liverpool were struggling to break the down. Salah and Roberto Firmino were replaced in the second half allowing Origi to enter; he’d already hit the crossbar in the 87th minute when he turned a close-range shot against the woodwork.
Origi may see more opportunities soon as it seems increasingly likely that Firmino is in need of some rest. Daniel Sturridge also came off the bench only to highlight the options that Liverpool have at their disposal. The host’s attacking changes forced Everton further back but a goal was becoming elusive.
Thrilling finish keeps Liverpool in chase
That was until deep into stoppage time, when Virgil van Dijk tried his luck with a 25-yard volley when quite a number of the Anfield crowd had already left. Van Dijk’s strike was miscued, spinning and gaining audible groans, even the defender himself turned and headed back towards his goal when hope arrived. The spin of the ball took it high and then down and, suddenly, Pickford was in trouble.
The ball bounced on top of the crossbar, and again, and then Pickford flailed, pushing it towards Origi who had chased into the area anticipating that maybe his moment might arrive. It did, and there was the game won with a single touch. For Origi, however, that one touch had been over two years in the making.
Klopp ran onto the pitch, pumping his fists. The noise from Anfield may even have been louder than that heard during the whirlwind matches of last season’s Champions League campaign. The ghost of this particular derby day had been given up, hope had faded and the points had seemingly been dropped, that’s what made this ending so thrilling for Liverpool, devastating for Everton and conclusive for Origi.