Rafael Benitez was left to defend the quality and application of his players after Everton succumbed to their heaviest home derby defeat in almost 40 years. Liverpool scored four against their Merseyside rivals in a one-sided derby which amplified the current predicament of both teams.
This defeat means that Everton have now lost six of their last eight Premier League games, scoring just two goals, and lie in 14th position, just five points above the bottom three. The manager backed his players to improve sooner or later but said that the team paid for their mistakes against a very good opponent.
“I think that everybody has to be disappointed that we have lost,” Benitez said. “We lost because we made mistakes against a top side. We have seen how much money Liverpool have been spending in the last few years. Against other teams it might not be so bad but against a top-class side you pay for mistakes.”
Challenged on the fact Everton have outspent Liverpool since Jurgen Klopp took over (only Manchester United, City, Chelsea and Arsenal have a bigger net spend than Everton since 2016), Benitez said: “The difference is [Liverpool] sold players and made big profits. You cannot blame the [Everton] owner for not spending money. January is a difficult window but when you have money to spend you have to make sure you do it properly.”
Mutinous atmosphere at Goodison
The atmosphere at Goodison turned mutinous as the game wore on and the prospect of facing Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester City in three of their next four games will not fill the supporters with much positivity that an upturn will come soon.
On the fans, Benitez said: “The fans were really good when we scored the goal. We played a good team. After we scored, the team reacted well and the fans were behind the team. Everything was in place and then we made another mistake. We can analyse the final score but the commitment and desire of the players you cannot question.
“It is important to understand what you were expecting when I came here. The fans expected the players to give everything. Any team missing three key players for a period of time and making mistakes in defence will lose games. The only way for us is to recover mentally and get all the players back.
“I am professional and I have enough experience to see a team giving everything. The reaction of the team was quite good. We are disappointed. But the team did well at the beginning [of the season] and then missed key players due to injuries.
“In football and in life the only way to change is to analyse and fix the problems. I take the positives, which is that everyone was happy at the beginning of the season. We have to go back to that.”
Meanwhile, Klopp was pleased with how his side dealt with the emotion of the fixture as they sought to banish the harrowing memories of their last Goodison visit, when they lost both Virgil Van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara to serious injuries.
“It was for sure the best performance at Goodison since I was at Liverpool,” the Liverpool manager said. “We had some good games here but never as calm and convincing as tonight. I told the boys whatever had happened in the past [is the past] and I wanted us to be really mature today. Aggressive? Yes, but in a football way. Angry as well, but in a football way. Today we showed a big step on our development. This is our benchmark.”