Goals from Andy Robertson and Divock Origi settled a spicy Merseyside derby, but despite the result going as we expected Everton can at least take something from a spirited display at Anfield.
The Toffees held Liverpool at bay for more than an hour and were proving a threat on the counter attack. But Liverpool, as they have done so many times this season, did enough to win.
Everton suffered a gut punch before the game had even kicked off with news of Burnley’s win over Wolves, their second victory in the space of four days, dragging the Toffees into the bottom three.
They are now two points adrift in the drop zone with six games remaining. Their game in hand on Burnley means it is still technically in their hands, but it is getting tougher with each passing week.
The Toffees curse continued in the warm-up, with Ben Godfrey pulling up and replaced by Michael Keane. Frank Lampard has already left Yerry Mina out of the squad to protect his fitness, meaning it was the dream-team Holgate-Keane partnership once again.
The other change saw Fabian Delph dropped to the bench, likely with fitness in mind, with Abdoulaye Doucoure coming in.
Everton started off ok, they were compact in defence and aggressive in the tackle, wary of Liverpool’s tendency to get off to flying starts. The Reds’ only effort in the first 45 was a turn and shot by Sadio Mane from distance that went over.
At the other end Anthony Gordon was again full of running. A mazy run saw him win a free-kick that Demarai Gray smashed into the wall. Gordon was then unlucky not to be awarded another free-kick when he was shoved over by Trent Alexander-Arnold. He was, however, guilty of a dive in the box as he cut inside of Naby Keita that saw him booked.
Everton’s best opportunity was a rapid breakaway that saw Richarlison feed the onrushing Doucoure, but his effort from a tight angle went wide.
As the half wore on Liverpool’s frustrations grew. They were unhappy with Everton’s physical approach and time wasting. But that is exactly what the Toffees intended to do.
Despite Everton’s physical approach it was Mane who was lucky not to be sent off after twice raising his hand in the face of Allan and then Holgate. Yet he was only booked. Go figure?
That incident occurred in a melee following a cynical foul by Doucoure, who wanted the game stopped as Richarlison was injured. Liverpool assumed Richarlison was faking it, as did Sky Sports co- commentator Jamie Carragher, who shouted “get up, he does this all the time”. Replays however showed he had genuinely rolled his ankle on this occasion.
Everton were much better offensively at the start of the second half. They were still defending deep but Alex Iwobi combined well to release Gordon on the counter attack on several occasions, drilling a shot wide before being cynically taken out by Alexander-Arnold that saw the Liverpool full-back booked. He then went down under a shove by Joel Matip, but no penalty.
We got one last year, it’s going to be at least 20 years before we get another.
Klopp rolled the dice on the hour - and it worked within seconds. Origi (yes, again) combining with Mo Salah, with the Egyptian’s chipped cross headed home by Robertson.
Harsh? Yes. But there was also a crushing inevitability about it.
Everton were on the rack for the next 15 minutes as Liverpool looked to finish the game off, but they managed to hold firm.
Gray had a fizzing effort just wide from distance before substitute Dele Alli got in behind the Reds defence and cut the ball back for Iwobi, only for Robertson to get in a crucial interception.
Then, the killer blow.
There was a touch of fortune about it as Luis Diaz’s overhead kick bounced into the ground and looped into the air, falling perfectly for Origi to head home from close range.
Transplant this game into any other season and you would take some optimism from the performance. But now, after such a traumatic season, you have to wonder why they didn’t perform like this earlier in the campaign? At Burnley for example?
We can only hope they can take some confident from this display and maintain that level of performance in their remaining games.
Let’s face it, they have to if we are to survive.