Liverpool kept up the pace with Manchester City in the Premier League title-race while also delivering local rivals Everton a bitter blow in their battle for survival as the Reds ran out 2-0 winners at Anfield.
It was a hard-fought and feisty affair that Liverpool probably deserved on the balance of things against a determined and dogged Everton. The away side performed admirably, but that won’t come as any comfort for a side who stay in the bottom three, two points from safety after fellow relegation candidates Burnley’s win over Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier today.
Jurgen Klopp asked for intensity from his side ahead of the Merseyside Derby, but it seemed to be lacking in the first-half as the Toffees started brightly. The visitors gave their old enemy little opportunity to play through them with Frank Lampard’s men keeping things tight and compact. In fact, it took Liverpool an uncharacteristically lengthy 21 minutes to register their first shot. Sadio Mane spun away from Allan with a first touch before blazing just over the bar.
In typical local derby fashion, things began to get a little spicier as the first-half progressed. Anthony Gordon went down in the box after connecting with Naby Keita’s outstretched leg but instead of being awarded a penalty the young midfielder was correctly booked for diving. The fallout resulted in Brazilian teammates Richarlison and Allison exchanging some fierce words with another. Shortly after, Diogo Jota and Seamus Coleman also clashed after a battle between the two saw some stray elbows thrown.
Richarlison had a chance to break the deadlock in the 34th minute when he found himself inside the box but his effort was dragged wide. On the cusp of half-time, Mohammed Salah failed to capitalise on a one-two with Keita and the Egyptian put his effort wide from 12 yards out.
The simmering tension began to boil over when Richarlison went down and proceeded to roll around on the ground as play went on, drawing ire from the home support. Then a fairly unremarkable challenge from Abdoulaye Doucoure on Fabinho sparked a mini-melee on the pitch that earned the Mali international a place in Stuart Atwell’s book. Liverpool’s first-half frustrations were then summed up perfectly as Mane exchanged a few words with Allan before pushing him in the face. The Senagalese star was desperately lucky to get away with just a booking.
Everton had a decent penalty shout early into the second-half when Gordon was brought down in the box by Joel Matip. Atwell was behind the action but saw nothing wrong with the German defender’s challenge and waved away any appeals.
Liverpool began to up the tempo and the deadlock was finally broken through Andy Robertson. Substitute Divock Origi got involved immediately, playing a neat one-two with Salah, who lifted the ball into the box with an on-waiting Robertson at the far post to nod into an empty net to the relief of an ecstatic Anfield.
The Reds could sense blood and a dazzling Luis Diaz brought down a wide ball in with a deft backheel and drove into the box to test Jordan Pickford from a wide angle. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross in for Matip at the back post was then cleared off the line by Mason Holgate before Salah’s follow-up volley was struck over the bar.
Despite Liverpool’s ascendency in the match, Everton showed they weren’t lying down when Demarai Gray unleashed a rising effort just past the near post from 25 yards out, with Alisson at full stretch. Ten minutes from time, Dele Alli did well to get into the box and square the ball to Alex Iwobi for a tap-in but Robertson was there and able to clear from his own line.
Origi adds another goal against Everton to his repertoire ✅✅
Jordan Henderson’s arrival, replacing Jota, was vital in Liverpool’s second as the captain crossed into the box for Diaz, who tried an acrobatic volley that bounced towards Origi in the box for an easy header from close range. The Belgian forward has scored six goals against Everton in all competitions for Liverpool, twice as many goals as he's scored against any other side for the club.
The win means Liverpool move back to within a point of league leaders Manchester City with five games to go. Everton, meanwhile, have a game in hand over 17th-placed Burnley, but have a tough set of remaining fixtures to complete the season starting with an away trip to Chelsea next Sunday.