There were no Evertonians in the lower corner of the Anfield Road stand so Everton’s players went over and did their job for them, piling on top of Gylfi Sigurdsson after his cool, late penalty and releasing the sound of more than 21 years of agony, frustration and torment into the night sky. As well they might. For the first time since September 1999 Everton could party after victory over Liverpool at Anfield. It was a moment to savour and savour it they did, typified by Duncan Ferguson planting a kiss on Séamus Coleman after the final whistle.
Liverpool’s 23-game unbeaten run in the Merseyside derby ended courtesy of incisive contributions from Richarlison, who gave Everton an early lead and was instrumental in the 83rd-minute penalty that sealed the win, but mainly an outstanding performance from Carlo Ancelotti’s defence. Jordan Pickford, pilloried after October’s controversial encounter at Goodison Park, was unbeatable while the five-man rearguard in front of him, aided and abetted by the tireless Tom Davies and Abdoulaye Doucouré, were faultless throughout.
Jürgen Klopp’s team had their moments but not the clinical touch or clear minds to capitalise. Everton did, to inflict not only a first derby defeat on the Liverpool manager but also a fourth consecutive home defeat for the Premier League champions. Defensively they were found wanting again and suffered further when Jordan Henderson limped off with a groin/adductor injury that resulted in Nat Phillips forming Liverpool’s 18th central defensive partnership of the season alongside Ozan Kabak. That is not an excuse for the defeat, nor were their complaints over the penalty decision that enabled Sigurdsson to double Everton’s advantage. The visitors, for once, were calm and measured in executing their gameplan. Liverpool were handled with relative ease and, when they did threaten, Pickford repelled everything.
Revenge appeared to be on Liverpool minds when Andy Robertson caught James Rodríguez long after the ball had gone but the blustery conditions and an unconvincing start to Kabak’s home debut were more telling factors. Kabak needlessly conceded an early corner in the wind, which sailed just wide off Ben Godfrey’s midriff from Lucas Digne’s delivery, but punishment was not long coming for Liverpool.
A weak header from Thiago Alcântara followed by a misdirected header from Kabak – both to Doucouré – gifted Everton possession and enabled Rodríguez to thread a superb pass into Richarlison’s run behind the Turkey international. Richarlison took the ball in his stride before beating Alisson with a perfectly placed low drive into the far corner. The Brazilian’s fourth goal in four games, after two in the previous 16, was the ideal start for a team needing to overcome its mental block at Anfield and for a visiting side set up with a five-man defence by Ancelotti.
Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession thereafter but created few clear-cut chances to draw level before the interval. The visitors’ central defensive trio of Mason Holgate, Michael Keane and Godfrey absorbed pressure comfortably and rarely allowed Liverpool’s front three space to cause problems. The home side’s only real threat before half-time came from Henderson, who steered a volley towards the far corner only for Pickford to produce a superb save and tip around the post. Trent Alexander-Arnold was also denied from distance by the England goalkeeper.
The volley would be Henderson’s last meaningful act of the game. Moments later, the Liverpool captain felt his groin go and despite attempts to play on he was inevitably replaced. Klopp looked on with a resigned smile. When even Liverpool’s makeshift central defenders succumb to injury, his reaction was understandable.
Coleman should have extended Everton’s lead when Digne delivered a deep cross into the heart of the Liverpool area. Everton’s captain threw himself into a diving header but his close-range effort was straight at Alisson.
Liverpool’s movement was far too predictable in the first half, their passing too slow, and although both improved in the second half their penetration did not. Sadio Mané headed straight at Pickford from a Robertson cross, then wastefully over from a Curtis Jones centre, while Holgate produced a fine clearance to prevent the Senegal international tapping in Alexander-Arnold’s low drive.
Pickford was the man in the spotlight and a man on a mission. When Mohamed Salah had his first sight of goal, played in behind Keane by substitute Xherdan Shaqiri, the goalkeeper charged off his line to save with his chest and pounced on the rebound before Shaqiri could connect.
The visitors were finding it almost impossible to escape the Liverpool press but were handed a glorious opportunity to seal victory when Richarlison spun away from Phillips and found substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin inside the area. The striker took his shot first time, Alisson saved brilliantly low to his left, but as he closed in on the follow-up Calvert-Lewin was impeded by Alexander-Arnold. The referee, Chris Kavanagh, had no hesitation in pointing to the spot or confirming his decision after being asked to check the pitch-side monitor by VAR.
Sigurdsson, another player introduced by Ancelotti in the second half, tucked a confident spot-kick past Alisson’s right hand and inside the bottom corner. Finally, the wait was over and Everton could party at Anfield at long last.