Liverpool kept up their top-four hopes with a second victory of the season over Everton, who were unable to rise to the occasion or even show much of a hint of their recent league form. The sides found themselves depleted after the international break, but in Matthew Pennington and Dominic Calvert-Lewin Everton threw in two players with barely a dozen appearances between them and no experience of Anfield. Liverpool were in control from the start and, truth to tell, won without having to be at their best. Everton still await their first win on this ground since the turn of the century.
Both managers said they were proud of their players’ efforts, even though Jürgen Klopp was obviously happier with the result than Ronald Koeman. Both thought their side had controlled the game, too, which clearly cannot have been the case, but Klopp was rightly enthusiastic about Liverpool’s finishing while Koeman accepted that the home side had the edge in quality and experience. “We had four boys aged 22 or less,” the Everton manager said. “I’m not afraid to put young players in, it is the only way they will gain experience, and they played in a way that I like to see Everton play.”
Klopp paid a classy tribute to Séamus Coleman in his programme notes and though Everton were missing other players, notably Morgan Schneiderlin and Ramiro Funes Mori, it was the patched-up right side of the defence where the unlucky Irishman normally operates that Sadio Mané exploited to give Liverpool an early lead.
After evading a Tom Davies challenge Mané carried the ball across the edge of the Everton area and Mason Holgate and Pennington managed to get in each other’s way in their attempts to close him down. The two defenders were also obscuring the view of Joel Robles, so that when Mané hit a crisp low shot through Pennington’s legs an unsighted goalkeeper was down too late to save it.
Robles did rather better in preventing Philippe Coutinho extending Liverpool’s lead midway through the first half, leaping to get a strong hand to a goal-bound shot. Even then the ball looped up and over the goalkeeper and would have gone in but for Phil Jagielka tidying up on the line.
Everton were not being overrun, they were holding their own in midfield without managing to set Romelu Lukaku or Ross Barkley free up front. The Liverpool defence was coping well enough with Everton’s limited attacking threat until the visitors equalised from a set piece, Pennington drilling home from close range for his first goal for the club after Jagielka had got his head to a Leighton Baines corner.
The Everton supporters tucked away in a corner of the Anfield Road end celebrated noisily, only to be silenced within a couple of minutes when Coutinho succeeded in what he had been trying to do earlier and sent a curling right-foot shot into Robles’s top corner. As soon as the Liverpool forward got away from Idrissa Gueye it was clear he was going to try his luck and though Pennington and Ashley Williams recognised his intention neither was able to get to him quickly enough.
For a Merseyside derby the first half was unusually open and entertaining, though two Everton players went into the book before the interval. Davies mistimed a challenge on Mané, while Barkley, who had already been spoken to for a foul on Emre Can, went over the top after showing too much of the ball to Dejan Lovren, catching the defender on the ankle when he had no chance of retaining possession.
Barkley seemed in danger of allowing his frustration to get the better of him once again, he has previous against these opponents, though 22 men remained on the field and it was an innocuous looking collision between Baines and Mané that resulted in Liverpool having to make the first substitution. Mané hobbled off and Divock Origi came on, putting himself on the scoresheet with virtually his first touch. Such was the opportunity presented by the Everton defence, with Williams and Jagielka missing in the middle, that Origi could hardly miss. Invited to beat Robles from the edge of the area the substitute confidently did exactly that.
There were further bookings for Williams and Can but with the result not in doubt the rest of the game passed off relatively peacefully. It might have been different had Everton pulled a goal back, but when Holgate had the opportunity from a Baines cross he headed tamely over. Lukaku might have done better, though the story of Everton’s afternoon was that Lukaku was hardly in the game.
Everton can always rely on their neighbours to put any hint of a revival into perspective. Cue (to the tune of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow) “You haven’t won a trophy since 1995”.