It wasn’t quite the humiliation that Everton feared, but it wasn’t far off. Barring the briefest of spells midway through the game, the 239th Merseyside derby was Liverpool’s all the way. It is often said that derby games don’t reflect the teams’ current form, but that wasn’t the case here; this showed just where Liverpool and Everton currently are.
Liverpool scored four, and could have had more had they put their foot down after taking a two-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes through Jordan Henderson and Mo Salah. Everton were on the ropes early but Jurgen Klopp’s team seemed happy to ease off from their dishing out of punishment.
In the end, more goals came via Salah and Diogo Jota and they are now the outright record-holders in English football history having scored twice or more in 18 successive games in all competitions.
Klopp’s men are purring; they have lost only once in the Premier League and will be part of the three-way title tussle well into the spring. They have now scored 43 goals in their opening 14 league games but few will have been sweeter than the ones struck against their city rivals.
City rivals who are now without a win in their last eight games, their longest such run for five years. Rafael Benitez, who became the first manager in 129 years to lead both teams in a Merseyside Derby, has his work cut out, especially considering that face Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester City in three of their next four games.
There was more to Everton here than when they tepidly lost to Brentford on Sunday, but that was still well below what was required to give Liverpool a decent contest.
Story of the game
The screens in Goodison Park showed the highlights of the last meeting between these two sides, Everton’s 2-0 victory at Anfield in March, before kick-off. Wistful thinking on the hosts’ part? Perhaps, and Liverpool — via their actions on the pitch — quickly told Everton to dream on. Klopp’s team bulldozed into Everton from the off.
Indecision between Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane presented Liverpool with a corner within two minutes and Joel Matip glanced wide from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s delivery. Moments later Salah missed the target from close range but shortly after fired a quick shot which was on target and Pickford had to get down sharply to deny.
Liverpool were playing with confidence, giving Benitez’s 4-4-2 system a thorough testing, and an early goal seemed inevitable. A quick move featuring Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson on the left brought it to fruition. When the ball fell to Henderson on the edge of the area, the Liverpool captain swept home past Pickford to score his third goal of the season.
Everton’s fears were starting to be realised. Alexander-Arnold’s rising shot required a stop from Pickford but the Everton goalkeeper was left helpless again in the 19th minute. It was a quick counter starting when Ben Godfrey lost his duel in centre field. Liverpool, with the freedom of Goodison, made them pay. Henderson released Salah with a fine pass, Pickford didn’t come to greet the Egyptian and the ball was curled around the ‘keeper.
Streams of Everton supporters were already heading down stairwells around the stadium, surely it was too early to be leaving. Those left in the stands didn’t want to give the ball back whenever it went out of play, perhaps fair enough given they didn’t trust their players when they were in possession of it. Everton weren’t comfortable in this new shape and Fabinho in particular had time to pick his passes in midfield.
Yet in Demarai Gray,, back in the team after a one-game injury absence, Everton possessed a lifeline. The 25-year-old had been the home side’s outlet whenever they traipsed upfield and in the 38th minute, he was set free by a defence-splitting pass from Richarlison. With Alisson coming out of his goal, Gray slotted his shot through the goalkeeper’s legs for Everton’s first goal in four games.
An element of belief returned for Everton. The half ended with Abdoulaye Doucoure’s goalbound shot being blocked and the second period opened with Gray’s shot being headed over by Matip. After Liverpool’s blistering start to the game, this was developing into a more even contest. And when substitute Anthony Gordon stepped in front of Robertson just after the hour mark, making the most of any contact, Everton had a free-kick in a prime central position.
However, such is Everton’s wont, they made a mess of it. Andros Townsend’s free-kick clipped the top of the Liverpool wall and looped out for a corner. From there, it was headed clear to Allan, whose high pass back to Seamus Coleman was poorly controlled by the Everton captain. Salah sniffed the danger, dispossessing the hapless Coleman, and racing through the open road that was the Everton half before tucking the ball past Pickford for, remarkably, his 19th goal in 19 appearances this campaign.
With their two-goal advantage now restored, the visitors regained proper control of the game. Godfrey almost converted Henderson’s inviting cross past his own goalkeeper but Liverpool didn’t need any assistance when they scored their fourth in the 79th minute.
James Milner, newly arrived from the substitutes bench, laid the ball to Robertson who in turn played it to Jota. The Portuguese attacker half-turned and back-heeled on the precipice of the six-yard box and then slammed a shot into the roof of the net from a tight angle. Perhaps Pickford should have done better at his near post but the finish was emphatic from the Liverpool attacker.
With the final whistle came shouts from the stands at the Everton board as they left. Meanwhile, Benitez’s name was sung…but from the wrong supporters. This was not a derby he will look back on fondly.
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Godfrey, Digne; Townsend (Delph 73), Doucoure, Allan, Gray (Tosun 85); Richarlison, Rondon (Gordon 59).
Subs (not used): Begovic, Kenny, Branthwaite, Iwobi, Gbamin, Dobbin.
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson; Henderson (Oxlade-Chamberlain 83), Fabinho, Thiago (Milner 75); Salah, Jota (Minamino 88), Mane.
Subs (not used): Kelleher, Konate, Tsimikas, Williams, Morton, Origi.
Referee: Paul Tierney.