01 April 2017

Liverpool 3-1 Everton

Mané 8'
Pennington 28'
Coutinho 31'
Origi 60'

Maybe Everton truly do have an inferiority complex in these matches.

There have now been 15 Merseyside Derbies since Everton last won one. Six and a half years ago. When Roy Hodgson was Liverpool's manager.

This derby wasn't even as close as the scoreline suggests, and it's not because Liverpool were thoroughly dominant. Despite actually finally scoring a first goal against Klopp's Liverpool, Everton offered next to nothing except snide, aggressive, late tackles, at least one if not two obvious but ignored red cards.

It remains a banal observation, but finishing changes matches. Liverpool only took 10 shots. None was a clear-cut chance. Today's performance is probably Liverpool's third or fourth lowest Expected Goals tally of the campaign. But Liverpool scored three times. Three well-taken goals from three capable scorers, although Liverpool were also admittedly absolutely helped by Joel Robles' goalkeeping.

And early goals change games too, especially for this Liverpool side. Within eight minutes and almost single-handed from Liverpool's most potent and most frightening attacker. First Mané embarrassing both of Everton's midfielders, beating Gueye to the ball then exchanging a one-two with Firmino and tearing away from Davies. Then Mané with some space as Coutinho drew two defenders, forced wide but an unerring left-footed shot placed into the far corner.

Everton had little response, but Everton still equalized. Because Liverpool and because the second ball on a corner. Jagielka wins the initial header and almost everyone's static except Lovren, but his tackle on Williams sets up Pennington for a tap-in. It's almost exactly how both Hull and Swansea scored their opening goals in wins earlier this year. Similar also happened against West Brom, at Swansea, and at Hull. It is a bit of a problem and literally everyone knows it.

But Everton's reprieve lasted all of three minutes. Philippe Coutinho, back with a vengeance. Given too much space in midfield, easily bursting past Gueye, cutting inside around Pennington, his obvious move from his obvious spot, curling a trademark shot around a confusingly placed Robles.

Somehow, 2-1 never felt worrisome. Not after Barkley got away with murdering Lovren's ankle. Not when Williams was in acres of space at the back post just after halftime, more bad defending from an Everton set play but hitting a narrow angle shot/pass too close to Mignolet. Not when Mané went off injured, a nasty-looking twisted ankle and/or knee, the only negative in today's match.

And three minutes after Mané's exit, his replacement sealed it. Milner easily dispossesses Holgate, Coutinho again bursts away from Gueye and finds Origi in space, Origi hammers past Robles who's wandering somewhere away from the shot.

The final 30 minutes were mainly a formality, the only concerns whether Liverpool would add more or whether Everton would injure anyone else. As for the former, Robles finally remembered what his job entails and twice denied Trent Alexander-Arnold. The jerk. As for the latter, Emre Can's knee is thankfully fine after a discussion with Ashley Williams' studs.

Sure, Everton were deprived of some crucial players as well, but that control was unexpected considering Liverpool's midfield, including Lucas' first league start in that position since I don't even know when. I'm not quite sure why Koeman reverted to a 3-4-3, but while more defenders limited Liverpool's chances, Everton were more exposed in midfield and absolutely irrelevant up front.

Romelu Lukaku, the league's top scorer, has now played every minute of all three games against Klopp's Liverpool. He's taken exactly one off-target shot – in this season's match at Goodison – and created one chance – a deep layoff to Barkley today leading to an out-box shot. In 270 minutes. Dejan Lovren absolutely adores playing against him. It is actually amazing.

Also, Jürgen Klopp is now the first ever Liverpool manager to win his first three Merseyside Derbies.

Even without impressing, Liverpool did what Liverpool needed to do. At this point, and for the next six weeks, it's results, not performances. Three points, no matter the opposition, the set-backs, the personnel available or missing. Liverpool, by hook, crook, luck, or talent, just have to grind through.

This was a good start. Now Liverpool have to do it eight more times.

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