FULLTIME AT ANFIELD REVIEW: MERSEY SIDE DERBY GOES THE WAY OF THE REDS IN INJURY TIME
Liverpool starting eleven XI: MIGNOLET; CLYNE, LOVREN, KLAVAN, MILNER; HENDERSON, WIJNALDUM, LALLANA; FIRMINO, ORIGI, MANE.
Similar to Everton, Liverpool named a rather familiar looking starting XI. Not a huge surprise as Jurgen Klopp made zero alterations to the side that thumped Middlesbrough 3-0. Meanwhile on the bench, Daniel Sturridge and Emre Can return. Though the historical importance of this fixture is not to be underscored but having lost just one in their last 14 Premier League games, Liverpool were firm favorites to win this as the Toffees strikeforce, though consistent, have been far from prolific or creative in front of goal to truly worry our defensive backline. Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have all been ever-presents, but now they also have a striker finding some form, with Divock Origi scoring five goals in his last five appearances across all competitions. The stats tell one story but hardly factors-in motivation or momentum when it comes to Everton. Especially with the blues coming off a famous comeback win over Arsenal; today’s Merseyside Derby promised fireworks.
Our last run-in with Everton saw a glorious performance with Klopp’s men steamrolling their Merseyside rivals who, to be fair, played a bit lackluster. But today saw the Toffees stepping up their game trying to take the game into our half in the early exchanges before the Reds got back to claim a prolonged spell of possession with an early probe at Everton which yielded nothing. It was the blues that ‘dominated’ most of the opening 20mins but created little upfront in terms of chances at goal.
A quite curious opening half for the Reds with their most notable effort at goal, which frankly was their only effort, came from Origi late in the first as the Belgian failed to capitalize on a brilliant play by Liverpool that saw Firmino getting the ball through from the left to Mane who jumped over it for a dummy, letting it fall to Wijnaldum who fed it to a charging Clyne; the Englishman drilled the ball into the danger zone to Origi who blasted over to dilute an amazing move by the Reds.
Everton almost made us pay at the stroke of half time as a delectable corner from Barkley found Funes Mori unmarked in the box who met the setpiece with a brilliantly measured header that swerved just wide of Mignolet’s right-hand post. Both teams went in for the break goalless with lots to talk about, moreso for the Reds with a very tame showing in the opening stanza
of the derby.
The second half saw Liverpool stepping it up early on and nearly got rewarded when Firmino, showing incredible creativity, fended off Funes Mori leaving just Stekelenburg to overcome but the Brazilian favored a dink over the keeper rather than going round him and came up short as Stekelenburg kept it clean with his well-timed rush out to stop Firmino.
As the half proceeded, it seemed Liverpool battled not just a very physical Everton side but the ref’s watch as well as everytime the Reds picked a little momentum the ref had to call a stop to proceedings. The first coming when Leighton Baines collided with his keeper forcing a medical timeout followed by a substitution that saw Joel Robles come in for the injured Stekelenburg. The second lengthy timeout came when a little clash of egos went down after a horrendous tackle by Barkley on Henderson, the ref stepping in to put a stop to the fracas between the two Englishmen before it turned to a full-on confrontation.
With the half fully dominated by the Reds, Robles came under fire time and again as our efforts picked up some urgency as the match progressed past the 75min mark but the breakthrough came after Sturridge got on for DivockOrigi who’d been marked out of proceedings all through this second half.
Stroke of genius by Klopp bringing him on when he did as a fresh and hungry Sturridge took it to a slightly exhausted Toffee backline late on in the game his effort bearing the much needed fruit 4 mins into injury time as he dropped his shoulder, cut inside and fired a low shot that beat Robles but crashed into the post only for Sadio Mane to react first to send the visiting Kop into raptures.
And so it stayed until the final whistle, a much needed win to send the Reds six points away from the top in second place.
Sturridge still has an important role to play
Although our former talisman has been blighted by injuries season long, with his future at Anfield looking precarious each time he’s been off the lineup, his time on today really showed how dangerous he can be if fully fit and given a chance. As always his consistency will be questioned going forward but boy, did he get us out of jail today with his usual flurry of footwork opened up space for the strike that led to the goal.
The Reds look more comfortable at the back
After our dismal defensive showing at Bournemouth and West Ham, Klopp has clearly earmarked his side’s defensive strategy as a main area for improvement as he should. Despite Matip not playing today because of injury, Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan paired up nicely to quell all of Everton’s attacks. Going forward the spotlight will definitely be on our cohesiveness at the back which as past seasons have shown is the major factor if we’re to mount any serious title challenge.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Our trusty Croat was central to our win today – taking one for the team going in the ref’s book after stepping up to body check Lukaku who was charging dangerously towards our box. His aerial ability was imperious as he came up top in the air against Lukaku and Barkley multiple times.