A second-half stunner from teenager Curtis Jones caused an upset of sorts as a young Liverpool team dumped Merseyside rivals Everton out of the FA Cup.
With his side sitting comfortably at the top of the Premier League, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp rested all the marquee names, including Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Djik, and instead opted for a youthful and inexperienced starting line-up.
One of the only members of Liverpool’s regular senior setup, James Milner, limped off injured after just six minutes, but this FA Cup third-round clash was about stars of the future.
Up stepped 18-year old Curtis Jones to steal the limelight with a stunning strike twenty minutes from time, curling a delicate shot beyond Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal with the slightest kiss off the crossbar on its way in from the edge of the penalty area.
The Toffees, under the helm of experienced winner Carlo Ancelotti, were wasteful with their numerous first-half chances and once again faced the short but dreadfully painful journey back home empty handed.
With Liverpool a whopping 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League table and with a game in hand, Jurgen Klopp included three debutants in Takumi Minamino, Nathaniel Phillips and substitute Yasser Larouci in his young side at Anfield.
Despite having a woeful record at Anfield in recent years, Everton’s near first-choice side will have fancied their chances when looking down the Liverpool starting XI.
James Milner was one of few Liverpool regulars to start but, having just celebrated his 34th birthday, age seemed to catch up with him as he pulled up in the early stages of this tie.
More pertinently, Milner’s injury comes after a glut of fixtures during the festive period for all clubs in England. The much desired winter break, scheduled for the first time in February this year, doesn’t seem to have calmed injury worries for Premier League managers.
With Milner out of the way, it was very much a full-strength Everton against the youth of Liverpool plus Adrian in goal. And the longer the game went on, the more the phrase ‘men against boys’ began to lose all meaning.
Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Mason Holgate were all guilty of missing chances, with Liverpool keeper Adrian making numerous saves, albeit none particularly pressing.
With Ancelotti looking more and more perturbed on the sideline - those three Champions League titles with Milan and Madrid must feel a lifetime away for the Italian - Klopp’s youthful side bubbled with belief and intensity.
Adrian began to take a backseat and it was Toffees stopper, Jordan Pickford, who was being called into action more and more in the second half.
There was nothing England’s number one could do about the eventual winner however. Curtis Jones collected the ball on the corner of the Everton area and bent in beautifully with a truly unstoppable strike into the far corner.
23 - Liverpool remain unbeaten in their last 23 home games against Everton in all competitions (W13 D10); they have beaten the Toffees twice at Anfield in the same season for the first time since the 1986-87 campaign. Lopsided. pic.twitter.com/n5YiDzeKNV
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 5, 2020
Everton’s miserable run at Anfield continues and Liverpool booked their spot in the fourth-round draw, which takes place on Monday evening ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Leeds.