There were no Evertonians in the lower corner of the Anfield Road stand so Everton’s players did the job for them, leaping on top of each other and filling the air with screams of unbridled joy in celebration of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s immaculate late penalty. As well they might. Everton had waited over 21 years to rejoice in a victory over Liverpool at Anfield.
This was a moment to savour.
Liverpool’s 23-game unbeaten run in the Merseyside derby was ended by incisive contributions from Richarlison, who opened the scoring early and was instrumental in Everton’s 83rd-minute penalty, but mainly by an outstanding defensive performance from Carlo Ancelotti’s side. Jordan Pickford, pilloried following the last spiky encounter at Goodison Park, was unbeatable while his defenders, aided and abetted by the tireless Tom Davies and Abdoulaye Doucouré, were faultless throughout.
For Jürgen Klopp, by contrast, a fourth consecutive home defeat will raise more questions of his team’s listlessness and lack of penetration.
Revenge was in the air as far as Liverpool were concerned, despite Klopp’s claims to the contrary, and Andy Robertson was quick to leave his mark on James Rodriguez long after the ball had gone. A more telling factor on the 238th meeting of the Merseyside rivals, however, was the strong wind that swirled around Anfield and played havoc with the approach of both teams. An unconvincing start to Ozan Kabak’s home debut proved an added complication for Liverpool.
The deadline day signing from Schalke was the first player caught out by the conditions when conceding a needless corner while attempting to head clear. Lucas Digne’s delivery hit Ben Godfrey in the midriff and sailed just wide of Alisson’s goal, but punishment was not long coming for Liverpool. A weak header from Thiago Alcântara followed by a misdirected header from Kabak gifted Everton possession and gave Rodriguez all the time and space he needed to thread a superb pass into Richarlison’s run behind the Turkey international. Richarlison took the ball in his stride before beating Alisson with a perfectly, powerfully placed drive low drive into the far corner. The Brazilian’s fourth goal in four games, after two in the previous 16, was the ideal start for a team needing to overcome its mental block at Anfield. And for a visiting side set up with a five-man defence by Ancelotti.
Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession thereafter but created few clear-cut chances to draw level before the interval. The visitors’ central defensive trio of Mason Holgate, Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey absorbed pressure comfortably and rarely allowed Liverpool’s front three room to truly threaten. In contrast, Kabak misjudged the flight of a Pickford clearance and almost let in Richarlison a second time, clattered into Rodriguez and received his team’s first booking for a foul from behind on Seamus Coleman.
The home side’s first opening fell to Roberto Firmino when he latched on to Sadio Mané’s reverse pass but his shot was deflected wide by Keane. From the resulting corner, Trent Alexander-Arnold hooked a high cross back into the Everton area that was headed out by Godfrey. The ball dropped to Jordan Henderson, however, who steered a volley towards the far corner only for Pickford to produce a superb save and tip around the post. Alexander-Arnold was also denied from distance by the England goalkeeper.
The volley would be Henderson’s last meaningful act of the game. Moments later, having broken away from Doucouré and out of defence, the Liverpool captain felt his hamstring go and despite attempts to play on he was inevitably replaced. Nat Phillips was introduced for Henderson while Klopp looked on with a resigned smile. When even Liverpool’s makeshift central defenders are the first to succumb to injury, his reaction was understandable.
Phillips hit the side-netting with a back post header but it was Coleman who should have been next on the scoresheet when Digne delivered a deep cross into the heart of the Liverpool area. Everton’s captain threw himself into a diving header but his close-range effort was straight at Alisson who made a routine block.
Liverpool’s movement was far too predictable in the first half, their passing too slow, and both were clearly highlighted for improvement by Klopp during the interval. The hosts were sharper on the ball and produced better runs off it in the second half. Unsurprisingly, they were more dangerous too.
Mané had an early chance from Robertson’s cross but his header was straightforward for Pickford. The Senegal international would have had a gift when Alexander-Arnold burst into the box and crossed low across the face of goal only for Holgate to intervene with an excellent clearance. Seconds later Mané had another chance. Curtis Jones, released into space behind Coleman, floated a cross over Godfrey but the unmarked striker headed over at full stretch.
Pickford was the man in the spotlight and a man on a mission. When Mohamed Salah had his first sight of Everton’s goal, played in behind Keane by substitute Xherdan Shaqiri, the keeper charged off his line to save with his chest and pounced on the rebound before Shaqiri could connect.
The visitors were finding it almost impossible to escape the Liverpool press but were handed a glorious opportunity to seal victory when Richarlison spun away from Phillips on the right and found Dominic Calvert-Lewin inside the area. The striker took his shot first time, Alisson saved brilliantly low to his left, but as he closed in on the follow-up Calvert-Lewin was impeded by Alexander-Arnold.
Referee Chris Kavanagh had no hesitation pointing to the spot, or confirming his decision after being asked to check the pitchside monitor by VAR. Sigurdsson, another Everton substitute, tucked a confident spot-kick past Alisson’s right-hand and inside the bottom corner.