Liverpool 0-2 Everton
For Evertonians, the half-time omens were good.
Not only was it the first time in 21 Premier League Merseyside derbies that they had scored the opening goal (the previous time was in their last win over Liverpool in 2010) but it was also only the second time the Toffees had led at the break in a Premier League game at Anfield (the other occasion was September 1999 – their last league win away at Liverpool).
And so it proved as Everton produced one of their best showings of the season to seal a fine win against the reigning but soon to be deposed champions.
This was a triumph for Carlo Ancelotti who has instilled organisation and belief into his team. A triumph for the club’s long-suffering fans. A triumph for their determined players, none more so than goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Castigated (and some) following a reckless challenge in the early season derby, the England number one was first-class here. Displaying his talent with a series of excellent stops and impeccable handling throughout.
For Liverpool, injuries in the centre of their defence and tiredness are both valid reasons which explain much, although not all, of their recent downturn in form.
Highlights of the game
Only a month ago Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp harboured hopes of retaining the title, while Ancelotti had games in hand to reach the top four. Since then though, both managers may have lowered their sights following a damaging run of three defeats in their past five Premier League games,
That meant, realistically, the last thing either side wanted in this one was a draw.
A clash of red and blue on Merseyside was always likely to provide compelling fare and Premier League highlights but the SBOTOP Premier League betting odds initially seemed stacked against the visitors.
They had already lost twice this week and this test arrived less than 72 hours after Manchester City turned on the style at Goodison Park.
Despite playing down talk of revenge before kick-off, Liverpool players were clearly angry with what happened in the derby last time when challenges from Pickford and Richarlison led to serious injuries for Virgil van Dijk and new signing Thiago Alcântara respectively.
The only disgrace though wasn’t the challenges – Pickford was wild but not malicious and Richarlison was late and duly sent-off – but the fact the goalkeeper received death threats fans in the days that followed.
Injuries are part and parcel of the game and are rarely caused deliberately.
Unchanged from the side that beat RB Leipzig in the Champions League in midweek, the hosts gave new loan signing Ozan Kabaka second Premier League start, while Everton made three changes to the side that lost 3-1 to City with James Rodríguez, Andre Gomes, Seamus Coleman all handed starting berths.
The former played a key role as Everton made a dream start.
When Kabak’s header went to Abdoulaye Doucoure who moved it onto Rodriguez, there was still much to do. However, the Colombian playmaker slipped a classy ball through to Richarlison and the Brazilian made no mistake with a clinical finish against his countryman Alisson into the bottom corner.
Liverpool came straight back at them and Pickford superbly tipped away a volley from Jordan Henderson before an even better stop to tip over a long-range Trent Alexander-Arnold effort.
Liverpool’s bad luck with central defensive injuries hit a new low when Henderson had to leave the fray following an accidental collision with Doucoure which meant the unfamiliar pairing of Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips – both centre backs but both highly inexperienced.
But for home shot-stopper Alisson it would have been two before the break as Coleman was denied at close range.
Klopp had his players on the pitch in a huddle at the start of the second period and his words must have sparked their strong start to the half as Sadio Mane was twice kept out what looked like equalisers by excellent challenges from Mason Holgate and Michael Keane.
It was further evidence of Everton’s collectiveness under Ancelotti.
That was mirrored in Pickford’sreaction to block a shot and then pounce on the loose ballas Mohamed Salah raced through.
If the outcome remained in the balance, it didn’t for much longer.
Substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin was too quick for the home defence and, while his initial shot was saved by Alisson, he was brought down by Alexander-Arnold as he went to pounce on the rebound.
Up stepped substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson to calmly convert the penalty and Everton had a day to savour.
Liverpool have lost four consecutive league matches. Only twice before have they endured four Premier League defeats in a row: September 1993 and November to December 2002.
They have also now lost four home league matches in succession for only the second time in their history, having done so in 1923-24. No reigning top-flight champion has suffered four home league defeats in a row since Everton in 1928-29.
The only reigning champions to lose more than three successive Premier League fixtures are Leicester City, who lost five in a row from January to February 2017.
Liverpool have lost six of their nine Premier League games in 2021, more than in 72 matches in 2019 and 2020 combined.
Everton are unbeaten in eight Premier League away matches (won six, drawn two) and have equalled the club record of eight without defeat, achieved in 2010 and again in 2016.
Richarlison’s goal in the third minute was Everton’s second fastest Premier League goal against Liverpool at Anfield since Olivier Dacourt scored in the first minute in April 1999.
Rodriguez has provided more assists than any other Everton player in all competitions this season (eight).
Sigurdsson has scored five away goals against Liverpool in all competitions – more than he has away at any other opponent during his career in England.
After highlighting ‘fatigue’ in the ranks, Klopp will be pleased his side has a week off before its next game, against bottom club Sheffield United next Sunday night (February 28). That is followed four days later by a home clash with Chelsea.
Likewise, Everton are now not in action until March 1 when they welcome Southampton to Goodison Park, followed three days later by a trip to West Brom and former boss Sam Allardyce.
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