Liverpool are a team who love nothing more than playing in big football matches. The Reds are proven as a team who bring their best game to matches which are billed as the biggest of the season and they didn’t disappoint against Everton.
Jurgen Klopp’s team boasted a superb record against the top six teams going into this match and Everton were hovering just outside this group of teams, in seventh place in the Premier League. So, not only was this a big game in terms of the opposition, it was a huge match in terms of the league table.
In truth, Everton did not turn up and looked like a team who arrived at Anfield expecting to lose. They had not tasted victory at Anfield for close to 20 years, so who can blame them? Liverpool made the early running and all that was needed was a goal, to reward the spell of dominance. It came thanks to a nice fun and finish from Sadio Mane after only 8 minutes. The Senegalese forward brushed aside Tom Davies with ease, before seeing the Everton defence panic and crumble in front of him, as he slotted home a low finish beyond Joel Robles.
It quickly became apparent Everton did not have the pace to cause Liverpool problems on the break or the creativity to open them up when Liverpool were set in their defensive shape. However, Klopp has looked on many times this season and seen his team defend poorly at set-pieces and the same was about to happen in this game.
A simple corner from Leighton Baines saw Phil Jagielka get his head on the ball and young Matt Pennington react by tucking home from close range to make it 1-1. It was a goal which Everton did not deserve for their overall contribution to the match in the first 30 minutes but it served as a stark reminder to Klopp that his team struggle when defending high balls into the box from set-pieces. The ease in which Jagielka could run across the penalty area, to the near post and flick the ball on, without anyone challenging was alarming. The severe lack of reaction from the Liverpool defenders following the flick was also poor and is something which needs to be changed quickly if Liverpool are going to improve and challenge for the title next season.
Thankfully, Liverpool are in fine fettle going forward and it didn’t take long for Philippe Coutinho to get the Reds back in control of the game. Having picked up the ball just inside the Everton half, Coutinho glided past one challenge before entering the Everton penalty area and curling a beautiful shot into the top corner. It was the perfect response and allowed the fans to quickly forget the appalling defending down the other end of the pitch.
Had the players gone in at half-time with the match at 1-1, all the talk would have been about the poor defending for the Everton goal. Thanks to a moment of magic from Coutinho, all the fans could think about was the brilliant run and finish by the Brazilian, who was showing no sign of tiredness from his efforts with Brazil in the World Cup qualifying games.
In the second half, Everton were getting stuck-in and applied a small amount of pressure. Liverpool were almost caught out again from a set-piece on 48 minutes. This time it was a long free-kick sent to the far post and Ashley Williams was unmarked on the corner of the six-yard box but could not produce a good enough contact on the cross. The ball was safely gathered by Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal.
However, Liverpool always looked capable of scoring goals and when the ball found Divock Origi, who had replaced the injured Sadio Mane, the result was put beyond doubt. The Belgian striker slipped away from Williams with embarrassing ease and despatched a confident finish beyond Robles to make it 3-1 and end the match as a contest. Everton huffed and puffed but never looked like making a clear goal scoring chance for themselves. The game finished with Liverpool winning 3-1 and moving 7 points clear of Manchester United, which became 6 points later in the day after the Red Devils were held at home by West Bromwich Albion.
Much was made of the performance of Everton’s in-form striker, Romelu Lukaku. Pundits questioned his desire but credit must go to Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren, who coped very well with the Belgian international. Lovren relished the physical challenge and Matip was excellent, both on and off the ball.
Coutinho was in inspired form and was clearly buoyed by his success with the Brazilian national team. The forward was back to his best, gliding around the pitch, leaving defenders for dead and scoring a lovely goal. Mańe was also excellent, with the only negative being the injury which forced him off in the second half. It’s too early to say how long he will be out for but Liverpool needs him to be fit for the run-in.
The quality of Liverpool’s forward play was never in doubt before this match and despite the absence of Adam Lallana, the team scored some delightful goals. Opening Everton up was not a problem but defending set-pieces proved difficult and not for the first time this season. This is a problem which Klopp is going to have to sort out if Liverpool are to the challenge for the Premier League title next season.
If the forwards are having an off-day, which will happen, you must keep things tight at the back. Giving up goal scoring chances easily from set-pieces is not going to allow Liverpool to win tight games, especially against unfancied teams from the bottom half of the Premier League table.
Bournemouth are the next team to visit Anfield in midweek and this will be a good test for Liverpool, who are once again crowned the kings of Merseyside.
Watch Jurgen Klopp’s post-match press conference Below.