It is a well-worn cliché to talk about turning points and season-changing goals, but Phil Jagielka’s howitzer at Anfield on Saturday certainly gives Everton a solid platform to build on after a distinctly shaky start to the season.
Had Liverpool clung on for the win then Everton’s performance would have been harshly assessed, merely adding to the pressure on Roberto Martinez and his squad.
A failure to truly test Simon Mignolet and put pressure on an out-of-form back four (a regular occurrence in Anfield derbies) would have been levelled at Martinez and his players, who have already had to bear a fair amount of criticism so far this season.
It can’t be denied that Liverpool were marginally the better side, but they were a shadow of the team that ripped through Everton in January, yet the Blues failed to exploit their apparent weaknesses – yet again.
But Jagielka’s late intervention means Evertonians feel like their side has won, a feeling accentuated by the obvious crushing disappointment of the Liverpool supporters who believed their side had done enough to sneak the victory.
Martinez would have been positive regardless of the scoreline, but his post-match comments carry far more weight when it has a positive result behind it. Unlike at Swansea on Tuesday when his assessment of a listless display left many scratching their heads.
Jagielka, unfairly targeted by so-called England fans after the Three Lions’ failure at the World Cup (he was below-par yes, but so were most of his team-mates), has now been labelled a player reborn, someone who has exorcized the demons of Brazil 2014 and is edging his way back to his best.
But while his goal will understandably steal the headlines, he was ably backed up by an impressive supporting cast.
Alongside him John Stones put in a masterful display that suggests he is going to be a regular for club and country for the next decade. And with the blues defending deep to negate the pace of Raheem Sterling, the much-maligned Tony Hibbert was tenacious for an hour in his first Premier League start for two years. Whether he should still be a first-team member is up for debate, but he didn’t let anyone down on this occasion.
Neither did his replacement Tyias Browning, who was making his Premier League debut but played like a seasoned veteran. His pace and determination to chase down a long ball also played a key part in the equalising goal. If left back Luke Garbutt can build on his performance at the Liberty Stadium in midweek (one of few players to emerge from that game with credit) then Everton have two promising, young understudies for the rampaging first-choice duo of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman.
Everton’s attacking instincts were stunted against Gerrard and co, not helped by a nasty looking hamstring injury to Kevin Mirallas midway through the first half, but they have already demonstrated this season that they can score against anyone.
If they can marry that attacking play with their new found defensive resilience, then we may finally see something close to the side we saw last season.
And if we do, then we owe a lot to one big swing of our captain’s right foot.