Friday, January 21, 2022

Everton 1-4 Liverpool: Five things to note as Mersey river flows Red

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Rafa Benitez was involved in a number of memorable Merseyside Derbies back in his Liverpool days, but his first at the Everton helm was far from a pleasant experience. Jurgen Klopp’s team marauded to victory at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening, with Demarai Gray offering a flicker of hope to the Toffees after Jordan Henderson scored the opener and assisted Mohamed Salah for Liverpool’s second, but only to see that hope shatter completely with Salah again and Diogo Jota making sure there were no late surprises in the match.

The result has left Everton in 14th place just five points above the relegation zone. On the other hand, Liverpool don’t look like dropping out of the title race any time soon; they are two points behind leaders Chelsea and one behind defending champions Manchester City.

The Ava White tribute

A 12-year-old girl by the name of Ava White was murdered in the Liverpool centre last week, and the tragedy hit the whole city hard. According to the Merseyside Police, she was involved in a verbal argument which escalated to a knife attack which left her fatally injured. There was nothing the paramedics at the scene or in the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital could do to save her. A 14-year-old boy has been arrested and is being processed for the crime.

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To honor her memory, both sets of supporters applauded in the 12th minute of the match. There were banners in the stands strongly condemning knife attacks, and some players wore tribute messages beneath their shirts.

Everton not good enough

It’s not very easy to pin-point what exactly has gone wrong for the Blues recently. On paper, they’re far from a bad team – they have quality players in every department. They have the England No.1 in goal. Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey are very good defender, flanked by the experience of captain Seamus Coleman on one side and the guile of Lucas Digne on the other. Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure have also proven their class over the years, as have Richarlison and Andros Townsend, while a striker like Salomon Rondon is always useful to have. It’s true that Everton were missing Yerry Mina, Andre Gomes and Dominic Calvert-Lewin in this match, but that cannot be an excuse at this level. After all, it’s not as if Liverpool didn’t have players missing too.

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This match was Everton’s eighth in a row without a win, and it seems their supporters have had enough. When Salah scored his team’s second goal, a large number of them was seen leaving the stadium, even though the match wasn’t past it’s 20th minute yet. Their heroes seemed completely outplayed, with no idea what to try next, and it could well turn out to have been Benitez’s last match in the Goodison dugout.

Demarai Gray

It should be said that Gray stood out from the rest of his team in every aspect, by a mile. The 25-year-old winger, who arrived to the club this summer, was the only player in a Blue shirt which consistently gave the Liverpool defence work to do. Flashing his quick feet and electric pace mostly on the left attacking flank, he caused Trent Alexander-Arnold quite a few problems.

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Even the most die-hard Liverpool fan will admit he deserved his goal fully, even if his finish needed a bit of luck to squeeze past Alisson Becker and find the back of the net. While Richarlison and Townsend tried to be ‘streetwise’ and displayed a lot of misplaced fighting energy, Gray did his job with skill and played proper football against top-quality opposition.

With six goal involvements (four goals and two assists) in 14 Premier League appearances so far, Gray seems trapped playing for a team unbefitting of his talents, and despite the fact that his contract runs out in 2024 and that Everton have an option to extend it by a further year, he might be among the first to ask to leave come the end of the season. If his performances stay on this level throughout the campaign, there’ll be plenty of interest in his services.

More records broken

It was a very important victory for Liverpool. Players playing a derby such as this one shouldn’t need any other motivating factors, but given what happened at this stadium in October 2020, it was a different prospect for the Reds. On that occasion, Everton goalkeeper Pickford ended Virgil van Dijk’s season and completely derailed Liverpool’s, and went unpunished for it. The tackle on Thiago Alcantara which earned Richarlison a straight red card took the Spanish midfielder out of action for over three months. And even though Liverpool were the better team in that contest as well, they failed to win.

It was different this time. They controlled the match well and were superbly clinical upfront, punishing Everton brutally for everything.

The whole season is going extremely well for the Reds.

Naturally, there’s no real talk about Liverpool and records without mentioning Mo Salah. The Egyptian now has 13 goals in 14 Premier League matches, which makes him the leading scorer of the league at this point of the season. That’s four goals more than Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy in second place, five more than Jota and six more than Mane.

A player like that finishing seventh in the Ballon d’Or race obviously puts a huge question mark over the whole affair concerning the award, handed for the seventh time to Lionel Messi.

Jota’s claim

Ever since Diogo Jota exploded onto the scene with Liverpool over a year ago, there has been talk about him being the player to finally break up Liverpool’s long-established attacking trio. Most people have been looking at the Portuguese as the one to permanently dislodge Roberto Firmino from the starting XI, and at the moment, he is taking full advantage of the experienced Brazilian being out with a hamstring problem.

However, Klopp’s mind doesn’t seem to be working the way most people expect it to. Even the handful of journalists that are frequently believed to have ‘inside information’ regarding the German are often left stunned by his decisions, or his reactions to their stories.

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Given a choice of top-quality players, Klopp will rarely choose one and ditch the other. He tends to nurture both and use their presence as an added bonus, a bit of an unpredictability, if you will. But there is no doubt whatsoever that Jota has a rightful place in that talk, in the same bracket as Firmino, Salah and Mane. What’s more, he is more versatile than any of them, capable of playing as a central striker, on either flank, or as a number 10 behind a striker.

His goal in this match was a pure work of art, one that Allan and Pickford aren’t likely to forget any time soon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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