Match Report: Liverpool 0-2 Everton (20/02/21)
Updated: Feb 23
Goals from Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson either side of half time ensured Everton took the spoils in the Merseyside derby and earned their first win at Anfield in 22 years.
Not only was this the Toffees’ first away derby victory this side of the millennium, but it was also their first win in the derby at all since 2010.
However, even with Liverpool’s recent run of poor form, the weight of expectation was still on the shoulders of Carlo Ancelotti and his players, but they rose to the challenge magnificently.
The visitors were afforded a dream start when Richarlison latched on to James Rodriguez’s through ball and calmly swept a finish across fellow Brazilian Alisson with just three minutes on the clock.
Sigurdsson then stroked a penalty home seven minutes from time after the returning Dominic Calvert-Lewin had been brought down by the trailing leg of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
‘Statistics don’t tell the full story’ is an oft-used piece of football parlance, and it was especially true here, as Liverpool dominated possession, but were unable to come up with anything to show for it.
Jürgen Klopp’s men responded well to the early deficit, and a volley from Reds captain Jordan Henderson forced England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford into an excellent diving save.
Shortly after, Alisson was needed at the other end, as he batted away Everton skipper Seamus Coleman’s close-range header from Lucas Digne’s left-wing cross.
Klopp’s side almost monopolised possession after the break, but Sadio Mané should have done better with two headed chances, first nodding straight at Pickford before failing to hit the target with another.
Michael Keane then denied Mané a clear shot at goal with a brilliant last-ditch tackle, before Pickford blocked a close-range attempt from Mo Salah.
With the Reds running out of ideas, a quick Everton break ended with Chris Kavanagh pointing to the spot, and once Sigurdsson had stepped up to double the advantage, it became clear where the points were heading.
Reds unable to make pressure count
Despite a forward line that includes Mané and Salah, two members of world football’s elite, Liverpool have now suffered their third blank in four games at Anfield, after also failing to score against Burnley and Brighton.
They have enjoyed an average of 69% of the possession in those three games, and 72% today, but were unable to find a way past the Toffees defence.
There is no doubt that Liverpool’s title challenge has been severely derailed with the defensive injuries they have suffered, but Klopp must now figure out a solution to their emerging woes in the striking department.
While Premier League top scorer Salah was largely kept quiet today, Mané was afforded several chances, and he should have done more to test Pickford with at least one of them.
Summer signing Thiago was brought in for the exact purpose of being able to unlock defences, but he was not able to exert much influence either, as the hosts huffed and puffed but ultimately ran out of steam.
The Reds will now try to put those concerns out of their minds and return to winning ways when they make the trip to Bramall Lane next Sunday to face bottom club Sheffield United.
Toffees break miserable Anfield run
The last time Everton returned across Stanley Park with all three points, Bill Clinton was US president, no-one had heard of the iPhone, and Coventry, Bradford, and Wimbledon were all members of the Premier League.
That particular meeting was the 190th Merseyside derby, and with today’s encounter forming the 236th, some sense is given of quite how long the blue half of Merseyside has been waiting for this result.
The trick for Everton to win at Anfield seems to be, quite simply, to score early, as back in 1999, Kevin Campbell netted the Toffees’ winner after four minutes, with Richarlison’s opener today coming in three.
However, a resolute defence is just as important if success is to be achieved, and Everton’s back five and goalkeeper played just as much of a role in this victory as Richarlison and Sigurdsson did.
England’s Keane was excellent in central defence, as was his international teammate Pickford, with their performances particularly timely as Gareth Southgate begins to formulate his squad for the Euros.
While solid at the back, the visitors were also able to threaten on the break using the pace of Richarlison, and they did so to maximum effect late on.
Referee Kavanagh needed only one VAR replay to confirm that Alexander-Arnold’s clumsy coming-together with Calvert-Lewin was enough to award the visitors a penalty, and after Sigurdsson had rolled it beyond Alisson, the (socially distanced) celebrations could begin amongst Evertonians.
Ancelotti celebrates, while Klopp’s injury woes deepen
Carlo Ancelotti had Everton leading the pack in the early stages of this season, before they went off the boil rather catastrophically, winning just one of six between late October and December.
However, Ancelotti’s calm demeanour is reflective of his wealth of experience in top-level management, and he has steered Everton back in the right direction after that brief stutter, with today’s win undoubtedly the greatest of his short tenure at Goodison Park.
Walter Smith was in the dugout the last time Everton won at Anfield, and since then, five men have failed to do what the Scotsman did, until the arrival of Ancelotti.
Meanwhile, in the opposite camp, Liverpool will now have to find even more space in an already crowded treatment room, after skipper Henderson was forced from the action after half an hour.
As Henderson walked off, Klopp’s expression of gritted teeth was somewhere between laughter and exasperation, as the scarcely believable nature of Liverpool’s injury crisis continues to confound.
Klopp’s spell at Liverpool has been personified by overcoming struggle, but with the club now having lost four home games in a row for the first time since 1923, this particular struggle could be one of the biggest he has faced in the Anfield hot seat.
Liverpool: Alisson (GK) 6, Alexander-Arnold 5, Kabak 5, Henderson (c) 6 (Phillips 30’ 6), Robertson 6, Thiago 6 (Origi 87’ 6), Wijnaldum 6, Jones 6 (Shaqiri 63’ 6), Salah 6, Firmino 5, Mané 5.
Unused: Adrián (GK), Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tsimikas, Davies, N Williams.
Everton: Pickford (GK) 7, Coleman (c) 6, Holgate 6, Keane 8, Godfrey 7, Rodríguez 7 (Calvert-Lewin 62’ 7), Doucouré 6, Davies 7, André Gomes 6 (Sigurdsson 59’ 7), Digne 7, Richarlison 8 (Iwobi 86’ 6).
Unused: Olsen (GK), Allan, King, Nkounkou, Bernard, Onyango.
The cover image for this post was sourced from Wikimedia Commons under the
(https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anfield_stadium_(Liverpool)_panorama_view_from_main_stand.jpg), and is attributed to the author, Yurificacion. It was retrieved by me on the 20th February 2021.