Sunday, May 26, 2024

Everton 2-0 Liverpool: Talking points as Everton survival desire proves stronger than Liverpool title credentials

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In the Merseyside Derby played at Goodison Park on Wednesday, Everton shocked Liverpool through goals from Jarrad Branthwaite (27′) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (58′), booking important three points as they fight for survival and putting an incurable dent in their neighbours’ hopes of winning the Premier League title.

The game

Everton obviously entered the clash with a clear idea on how to play and best use the recent woes of their local rivals. Though Liverpool dominated possession for long spells, Sean Dyche’s men played very directly and made the best of Dominic Calvert-Lewin arguably getting away with a number of fouls on the Liverpool centre-backs. Dwight McNeil and Abdoulaye Doucoure did their part too in causing the Reds problems.

The opening 10 minutes were particularly lively. Doucoure wasted an early chance for the home side, but Liverpool responded quickly in the same way through an opportunity wasted by Darwin Nunez. In the sixth minute, Everton appeared to have got the better of the Liverpool back line and referee Andy Madley awarded a penalty for the Toffees as Alisson Becker brought Calver-Lewin down, but a VAR inspection established that the Blues striker was offside. Four minutes later, Ben Godfrey saved Everton with a heart-stopping clearance in front of two Liverpool attackers at two or three yards from the goal, and then he missed a chance to score at the other end. In the 17th minute, Everton had another great opportunity as James Tarkowski, through a possible foul on Virgil van Dijk, headed the ball across goal and Calvert-Lewin nodded on target, but Alisson made a fine reflex save.

There were more than enough of danger signs for the visitors, and in the 27th minute, they finally succumbed after Ibrahima Konate clumsily prevented Alexis Mac Allister from clearing the box and set Branthwaite up for a shot from around 10 yards. Alisson made contact with the ball, insufficient to prevent it from going in.

From that point on, Liverpool increased the pressure and Everton mostly held onto their lead, not thinking about adding to it too much. Jordan Pickford saved his team twice, denying Nunez and Diaz, and Mohamed Salah also had a good chance but he scuffed his shot from just inside the box.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was instrumental in everything good Liverpool did, mostly let down by his attackers after causing the Everton defence serious problems with his incredible passing range. But in the second half, his influence dwindled and Diaz mostly carried the torch for the underwhelming Reds.

Liverpool had a few potentially promising moments early in the second half, but Virgil van Dijk’s header was easily saved by Pickford and Andy Robertson wasted another fine pass from Alexander-Arnold through poor control of the ball. They still dominated possession, even more than before, but Everton again gradually became more dangerous, and after Idrissa Gana Gueye sent a feeble shot and Alisson saved a more threatening one from McNeil, Calvert-Lewin doubled their lead in the 58th minute. It was a well-worked corner, where Godfrey and Tarkowski blocked Van Dijk and created the space the Blues striker needed to beat Alisson with a free header from close range.

The period that followed was mostly marked by Liverpool, bereft of attacking ideas, passed sideways from one touchline to the other, obviously going nowhere. With just over an hour gone, Klopp pulled out Dominik Szoboszlai, Curtis Jones and Konate, sending Harvey Elliott, Wataru Endo and Jarell Quansah on, but the changes made no difference. The closest Liverpool came to scoring all game was in the 69th minute when Diaz broke down the left and fired into the far post. They had their last chance of consolation in the final seconds, but Pickford did well again to deny Salah.

Klopp’s Liverpool tenure heading towards disappointing end

Much has been said about Liverpool trying to make the final months of the German tactician at the club special, but in this game, only Diaz, and Alexander-Arnold in the first half, earned a passing grade. The rest of the team simply didn’t look motivated enough to fight to stay alive in the Premier League title race, and it seems the Carabao Cup will be the only 2023/24 trophy in the cabinet at Anfield.

Klopp certainly deserved more from his players than the (lack of) effort they’ve been putting in lately. That goes perhaps most of all for Salah, who looks half the player he really is these days, as well as Van Dijk. Any team hoping to win the title in a highly competitive league needs its top stars to lead the way, to show class, to inspire their teammates.

Liverpool fans will still surely remember Klopp’s time at the club fondly, given the fact that he took almost a mid-table club and led them to glory both in the Premier League and the Champions League, and that they went toe-to-toe against the might of Manchester City down to the last round twice, and that they played a total of three Champions League finals. But the feelings of disappointment caused by this unexpected implosion will linger for a while too.

Looking at the table, Liverpool are now three points behind leaders Arsenal, but the race is still in the hands of Manchester City. The defending champions are third, four points behind the Gunners, but they have two games in hand on both rivals.

Everton move away from danger

Things could not be going more differently for Everton at the moment. The Toffees still haven’t secured survival in the league, but they’re slowly getting there. Having won three of their last four matches, they’re eight points above Luton Town, the team topping the relegation zone, and if this Merseyside Derby has revealed anything, it’s that the Blues’ desire to play in the Premier League next season is currently greater than the Reds’ of winning the title.

Dyche and his men fully deserved the three points. They played far more mature and composed. They didn’t mind their neighbours having the ball but they defended resolutely, and they knew exactly how and when to hit back. And unlike Liverpool, they’ll have everything to play for in their next match, at home against Brentford on Saturday.


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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