22 years. 23 visits. Ten draws. 13 defeats. And so, in true Everton fashion, it came to pass that a long-awaited Anfield victory arrived in a time when any significant form of celebration is essentially illegal.
Not that that should reduce the achievement in any way. For years, it’s as if a trip across Stanley Park has been laced with amnesia for Everton, as if they arrive at their neighbours with all they’ve learnt about football suddenly wiped from the memory, their knees morphed into jelly, their own self-worth reduced to crumbs.
Yet here, at an Anfield shorn of that booming wall of fury, and of those relentless red arrows of the last few seasons, not so. From the offset, Everton planted their flag in the ground across the park, and found the early lead their assured start merited when James Rodriguez punctured a clunky Liverpool back line and fed Richarlison, who ghosted away from Ozan Kabak before lashing past Alisson Becker.
It was a lead Everton held for the remaining 42 minutes of the first half and which, perhaps, would only have been a fairer reflection of the flow of the game had it increased. A relatively unruffled Jordan Pickford only really had a speculative Jordan Henderson effort to contend with. Liverpool’s fabled front three felt strangely muted throughout. And, had a more proficient finisher than Seamus Coleman found himself with the chance to double the lead with his close-range header, it may have been two.
Only really after the break did storms need weathering. If Liverpool should have become more porous when the injured Henderson was replaced by Nathaniel Phillips, Everton hardly unleashed waves of pressure, instead mostly sitting relatively comfortably, riding out the attacks, their impregnable back five defending stoutly. Michael Keane and Mason Holgate were particularly efficient, while Pickford delivered a somewhat redemptive showing having endured his own personal derby traumas previously.
For a goalkeeper once so charitable at this ground, and who bore the brunt of Liverpudlian ire after his challenge on Virgil van Dijk in October’s reverse fixture, this felt a statement performance from Pickford. Not just through that fine, acrobatic early denial of Henderson’s volley, but also particularly when clawing Mohamed Salah’s effort when the Egyptian bore down on goal amid a second-half Liverpool onslaught. Indeed, there was a mature, ‘you shall not pass’ attitude about Pickford on a stage where he has wilted so meekly on numerous occasions before.
And ultimately, Everton’s diligence was rewarded with a second, this time from 12 yards. It appeared a soft spot-kick as Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who returned from injury from the bench, went down under Trent Alexander-Arnold’s challenge and, after consulting VAR, Chris Kavanagh stood by his initial decision. But that will matter not one iota to anyone of a blue persuasion, and the oft-derided fellow substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson deserves immense credit for staying ice-cool from the pressure cooker of the penalty spot.
There have been so many nadirs here for Everton - the FA Cup humiliation to Liverpool’s reserves, that self-defeating high line which triggered the sounding of Marco Silva’s death knell, the couple of 4-0 drubbings under Roberto Martinez - that the competent, respectable Anfield showings almost feel the anomalies.
And yes, there may be mitigating factors when debating the magnitude of the mental mountain Everton have just scaled, but after 22 impoverished years, beggars can’t really be choosers. There was even a hefty dose of irony in the fact that the two perceived villains of the piece in October - Richarlison and Pickford - both stood tall and played integral parts in this priceless win.
In fact, the only thing that could diminish this feat is if Everton were to follow this up by more anaemic home performances. In the most unique and peculiar of Premier League seasons, nothing quite sums up its unpredictability like the fact that they have won at Tottenham, Leicester and Liverpool yet lost at home to Fulham, Newcastle and Leeds. This monumental win breathes new life into Everton’s quest for European football, and in a way that it would feel a crying shame if that potential now goes unfulfilled.
But after so many nightmares in this haunting arena, those concerns can wait. At least for tomorrow morning. The pubs may be closed, the pandemic may be unabating, the celebrations may be limited. But drink it in as best you can, for in a time where nothing feels the same, Everton have won at Anfield.
Yes, you read that correctly. Everton have won at Anfield.