Everton made the trip across Stanley Park to take on the old enemy in the early Saturday kickoff. Everton had spent the break reflecting on their upturn in fortunes with 3 wins out of the past four matches. Anfield has not been a place for many blue celebrations in the past twenty-five years with only one win, in 2021, to show for their efforts. (W13, D9) Would today be another marker on the road to recovery and throw a spanner into the Reds push for the top?
Liverpool have struggled in their last two matches with a controversial loss at Tottenham and a last gasp draw at Brighton. At home, Liverpool had a flawless five-match winning record, accompanied by a resounding 14-3 aggregate scoreline.
Sean Dyche had an almost fully fit squad from which to choose. He stuck with the team that beat Bournemouth with Idrissa Gueye on the bench. The question would be whether the team set up to sit deep and absorb pressure or get onto the front foot and pressure Liverpool.
Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson requires surgery on the shoulder injury he sustained on Scotland duty, with Kostas Tsimikas coming in at left back. Diogo Jota returned from a one-match ban and replaced Darwin Nunez. Ibrahima Konate replaced Joel Matip, and Ryan Gravenberch, made his first Premier League start.
Craig Pawson was the referee for the match and his whistle was barely heard over the fervor of both sets of fans. It was Everton who had the first attack with Calvert Lewin getting on the end of a Dwight McNeil cross. It was clear that Doucoure was going to be a shadow for Alexander Arnold in the middle of the park and it was a fine tackle by that stopped .
The Everton backline was broken when Gravenberch layed the ball off for Mo Salah but he was offside. Liverpool were controlling the play but Everton were holding their own. Liverpool’s counter attacking was being used and it was coming down both flanks. A loose touch by Konate gave McNeil the chance to break goalward and the ensuing corner saw no threat on the Liverpool goal but the breakout saw Ashley Young block the shot from Diaz.
The next Everton corner saw Allison scrambling to clear the ball and the quick break again caused Everton trouble but it was a great tackle from Onana that stopped Diaz. Ashley Young was in the referee’s book after stopping Tsimikas from breaking out. Liverpool were given a free kick on the edge of the box and three players lined up to take it but Alexander Arnold blasted the ball but the Everton wall stood firm.
Everton hearts were in their mouths when Mo Salah had the ball scream just over the bar. Liverpool had not registered a shot on net when the 25th minute arrived. Tarkowski was yellow carded for a late tackle and he questioned referee Pawson why Tsimikas was not in the book with him. The first shot did arrive off the boot of McAllister and Pickford stopped the shot but had to scramble to cover the rebound.
The plot changed completely when Ashley Young received a second yellow for a late tackle on Diaz as he cut towards the box. The Everton fans were shocked and this was going to be a very long 52 minutes. It was Dwight McNeil who tested Allison with a fine effort. Doucoure had moved back into the middle with Garner taking Young’s right back position. Two minutes of added time came and went with no incident.
The second half started with Sean Dyche making two changes in order to solidify the back. McNeil and Harrison were off with Patterson and Keane coming on to make it a back five. This was going to open up more space for the Liverpool midfielders out wide. Liverpool started the half with a patient approach trying to move the ball and wear Everton down.
Ibrahim Konate was the first Liverpool player to get a yellow card for his challenge on Onana. The Everton goal was under threat but Tarkowski was on hand to block the Salah shot. Amadou Onana was then lying in the Kop after falling over the advertising boards. Liverpool had not started well and Klopp saw the need to bring on Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott in place of Tsimikas and Gravenberch. At the same time, Dyche brought on Beto to give Calvert Lewin a rest.
The last thirty minutes arrived and Everton’s backline was holding firm. Darwin Nunez recorded the first shot for Liverpool but it was a timid one that was easily handled by Pickford. The Anfield crowd was getting restless and the Evertonians started to raise their voice.
Luis Diaz was on the floor in the box and the VAR decided against a penalty but moments later Michael Keane had the ball strike his hand and Craig Pawson went over to the screen and he gave a penalty. Mo Salah stepped up and slotted the ball home with fifteen minutes to play.
Amadou Onana was replaced by Arnaut Danjuma at the same time that Diaz made way for Joe Gomez. Everton taking a chance to get a goal and Liverpool protecting the lead. It was Branthwaite again standing tall in front of goal to deny Nunez. The need for a goal saw Dyche withdraw Mykolenko and put Youssef Chermiti into the match. Jordan Pickford then made the save of the match by pushing Elliott’s raking shot onto the bar.
Nine minutes of additional time was announced and Diogo Jota then blasted the ball into the side netting. A long ball forward from Tarkowski to Chermiti forced Van Dyke to give away a corner but the Blues could not pressure the Liverpool goal. Everton were throwing everyone forward and it was not surprising when Nunez broke out and laid the ball into the path of Salah who calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net. Game over.
Everton Man of the Match: James Tarkowski showed his leadership throughout the match. He put his body on the line time and again to repel the Liverpool onslaught. His partnership with Branthwaite is growing and his role as mentor should not be overlooked.
This was always going to be a game where Everton would have to absorb the possession of Liverpool. Finding the balance between defending and keeping the ball when they had the ball was critical to keep the game close. The sending off forced Everton to defend with a man down for more than an hour. James Tarkowski, Jarrad Branthwaite and Vitalii Mykolenko all played very well and they rarely put a foot wrong. Mykolenko in particular marshalled Salah really well and limited his influence in open play.
Ashley Young who was preferred over Nathan Patterson had to be a decision from Dyche to have an experienced head in the team. It was so disappointing to have that experience not used when he went in on Luis Diaz and received his red card. The game changed in that moment and it was not necessary. The loss should rest solely on his shoulders. The first yellow card for the tackle on Tsimikas was questionable but the second was definitely not. Perhaps this will give Nathan Patterson his opportunity to show Dyche that he can also deliver.
For Everton, the real talking point when the team was Sean Dyche’s decision to stick with the team that beat Bournemouth. The decision to leave Idrissa Gueye out showed that Dyche was willing to trust the pairing of Amadou Onana and James Garner to run the middle of the field. Unfortunately, the red card did not give this plan a chance to impact the game. Let’s make sure this is the Plan A moving forward.