Everton blunder their way to EPL record derby defeat
1st December 2021, Goodison Park
Everton 1-4 Liverpool
(Gray 38 – Henderson 9, Salah 19, 64, Jota 79)
Rafael Benitez’s return to Merseyside Derbies, this time from the blue side, proved miserable, as his off-form, low-confidence team were overwhelmed by a determined, professional and dynamic Liverpool. The Reds wanted to avenge perceived derby ‘injustices’ from the previous season, and produced a performance that not only outclassed Everton but at times made them look unworthy of standing on the same grass. Everton, with just two points from eight games, are on the worst run-of-form in the Premier League.
Amazingly, Liverpool could, and should, have been three up in seven minutes, exploding out of the blocks, as Joel Matip, and Mohamed Salah twice had glorious opportunities to score. But goal one still took seemingly no time, as on nine minutes, captain Jordan Henderson broke through with a graceful curling finish from the edge of the area to cap a magnificent passing move.
Liverpool continued pressing, causing Everton’s nerves to jangle and creating more openings, before Henderson produced what is becoming his team’s most effective weapon; he played a cutting through-ball down the right into the path of Salah, whose pace – as great in possession as not – carried him clear of the defence to curl a sumptuous chip past Jordan Pickford for a 2-0 lead after 19 minutes of total Liverpool dominance.
Liverpool slowed down a little from there, but Everton continued to look toothless and jittery. It was therefore a surprise when the Blues got back into contention with a good through-ball from Richarlison to play in Damarai Gray – the only Everton player to emerge from the game with any real credit – who struck the ball under Alisson to reduce arrears to 2-1.
With this boost, Everton at least started competing, but no blue ‘onslaught’ or ‘storm’ ever really followed. Instead, Liverpool, without creating many new chances, continued to control the match after half-time. A killing blow never felt very far distant, and on sixty-four minutes, Salah took advantage of a dreadful blunder by the brittle Seamus Coleman to steal the ball on halfway, break into the Everton area, and slide it past Pickford again to restore the two-goal cushion. At a stroke, all confidence drained from Everton, who reverted to wild hacks downfield, and punchless, inaccurate passing. All credit to Salah for his pace, skill, and finishing though. He truly is the best player in the world right now.
Diogo Jota, in fine form himself, added a fourth late on courtesy of a neat turn and drag-away of the ball from a defender on the left side of the six-yard box, before firing a laser-bolt finish into the roof of Pickford’s net from an awkward angle. Three consecutive four-goal EPL performances from Liverpool, and 4-1 is Everton’s heaviest Goodison derby defeat in EPL history.
A clear gap is developing between the top three of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, and the chasing pack. But for Everton, with their fans in increasingly open revolt, discussions of title challenges appear a universe away. Benitez, their sixth manager in as many unstable seasons, is disliked by the fanbase for his past with Liverpool, and the poor Everton form means he is already in danger of dismissal from a job he has only held for five months.
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