Liverpool welcomed city rivals Everton to Anfield for the 228th Merseyside derby as the first of the two big fixtures in the Premier League this weekend, with Arsenal playing Manchester City tomorrow. Sadio Mane opened the scoring for Liverpool before Everton’s young Matthew Pennington equalized. However, Philippe Coutinho immediately restored the lead and the Reds carried the lead into half-time.
Divock Origi came on for Sadio Mane in the second-half and scored to build a two-goal cushion for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Everton had a couple of half-chances but never looked likely to score and Ronald Koeman’s side lost the match 1-3 to their city rivals.
Here are the 5 talking points from the match.
#1 Both teams hampered by injuries
Every international break is dreaded by clubs and especially if there is a big match right after it. Matches do not get fiercer than the Merseyside derby and it was unfortunate for both managers to not have their full squad for selection.
Liverpool lost their midfield spark Adam Lallana during national duty to a thigh injury and Lucas Leiva, a defensive midfielder, came in for the Englishman. This change meant Emre Can, who has been phenomenal in recent weeks, moved further up front where he is not as effective as Lallana. Further Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson suffered a setback in his return to fitness and is expected to miss more games.
Everton lost in-form right-back Seamus Coleman and midfielder James McCarthy while playing for the Republic of Ireland in the international break whilst defender Ramiro Funes Mori picked up a knee injury playing for Argentina. Morgan Schneiderlin could not recover from his calf-injury in time for the derby and defender Matthew Pennington, right-back Mason Holgate and midfielder Dominic Calvert-Lewin started in place of the injured trio.
#2 Liverpool’s attacking brilliance proves too much for Everton
Liverpool’s front three of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have caused problems to every defence in the league this season, be it with their movement or individual brilliance.
Both were on display in the first-half as Mane combined with Roberto Firmino as they played a quick one-two to have a go at the Everton defence. The former Southampton forward skipped past a defender and used Coutinho’s brilliant run to open up Everton’s defence and finished calmly with his left-foot. This goal meant the man from Senegal has scored in both the league meetings between the sides this season, having scored the winner at Goodison Park.
Coutinho has failed to find his pre-injury form yet and has been withdrawn by Klopp in recent weeks as well. However, the superb goal midweek for Brazil looks to have turned the tide and the Brazilian looked purposeful, right from kick-off. After a saved attempt from his trademark edge of the box position looked to increase his frustration, he channelled it, however, the right way to get away from Idrissa Gueye and score, finally.
The Liverpool number 10 followed it up with a fine assist for Divock Origi in the second-half and the Belgian obliged by thumping it past a helpless Joel Robles for the Reds’ third goal. On a day where there were fears over the absence of Adam Lallana, Liverpool’s attackers stepped up to deliver along with their midfield with Emre Can standing out once again.
#3 Everton lack penetration but Pennington punishes Liverpool’s set-piece weakness
All through the first-half, Everton tried to build the play through passes but ended up facing a resolute Liverpool defence led by Dejan Lovren who was absolutely magnificent, especially in the way he dominated Premier League’s in-form striker Romelu Lukaku. Along with Lovren, Lucas put on a great shift in front of the defence, matching the pace of the game and providing a calm head to counter Everton’s threat.
However, the goal arrived for Everton and it was from a familiar Liverpool weakness. Everton won a corner and from the resulting cross, Phil Jagielka showed greater desire to win the first header at the near post and young Matthew Pennington put the ball in the net to punish the home side’s passive defending. It was a moment to remember for the youngster as it was his first derby for the Toffees and his goal brought Everton level in the first-half.
It was his inexperience however that was exposed by Coutinho for the latter’s goal as the Everton man allowed Coutinho to cut on the inside and put Liverpool back in front. While he can take solace from the fact that he was beaten by a player back to his brilliant best, Ronald Koeman will understand how important it was to stay level till half-time.
Everton threatened through Ashley Williams from a set-piece in the second-half and through a couple of crosses, but could not bring Lukaku into the game and therefore struggled to score.
#4 Klopp trumps Koeman in substitutions as well
In a match that was thoroughly dominated by Liverpool from start to finish, Klopp’s substitutions ensured Liverpool have a cushion going into the final half-hour of the game. The first substitution was forced as Sadio Mane picked up an ankle injury, causing further concern for Liverpool. He was replaced by Divock Origi, who took his chance to score almost immediately with a well-taken goal, thereby opening a two-goal lead.
The German gaffer followed it up by bringing in local boy Trent Alexander-Arnold for Philippe Coutinho, who had an outstanding game, as the 18-year old was everywhere; pressing as well as providing an outlet and even drawing a save out of the Everton keeper.
On the other hand, Koeman brought on Gareth Barry for Tom Davies and Enner Valencia for Matthew Pennington as his side chased the game. However, they failed to provide the necessary lift and the Toffees looked to have lost their legs as the game wore on, with the Reds looking more energetic and therefore, the more likely team to score.
Lukaku was forced to move out wide due to Lovren and whipped in a few crosses in the second-half but to no avail. Ross Barkley had a horrendous game and could have got himself sent-off in the first-half.
Klopp not only got his team selection right, including the selection of the experienced Lucas but also got more out of his team and substitutes than Koeman, whose side faded out as Liverpool grew into the game.
#5 Liverpool’s Champions League hopes intact, Everton’s European dreams in thin air
Klopp’s record against the remaining members of the top 7 is impeccable this season and he became the first Liverpool manager to win his first 3 Merseyside derbies in the Premier League as well. Meanwhile, Everton’s wait for a derby win at Anfield continues with the last victory coming 18 years ago.
Everton started the match six points behind their Merseyside rivals and looked to close the gap given their current form. However, their dreams of playing in Europe took a massive hit not just due to the loss, but also in the manner they lost the derby. Their hopes of playing in Europe are now through a convoluted route that involves the FA Cup winner to have already qualified for either of the European competitions by virtue of their league position.
On the other hand, Liverpool’s Champions League hopes were given a major boost with the win moving them to third place temporarily. This match was Liverpool’s last against the other top 7 teams and the remaining 8 games are comparatively winnable ones. However, Liverpool have been imperious against the top teams and have struggled to beat the bottom-placed teams this season. So, it is not exactly as straightforward as it looks but Liverpool are definitely on the right track.