34 min: Robertson is down now, having taken a smack on the nose. All accidental by the looks of it, but none of this is improving the mood of the Goodison faithful, who are on a rolling boil now.
32 min: Allan catches Jota with his trailing leg while slide-tacking the Liverpool forward. A yellow card. Jota is far from happy about the challenge, while Everton complain about the booking. Richarlison comes across to have a word with Jota when he gets up. Jota is insistent that Allan should have been sent off, and continues to rant away.
30 min: … but once again, the free kick is a waste of everyone’s time.
29 min: Thiago is at fault here, though, clipping Allan out on the right. Another chance for Everton to line up on the edge of the Liverpool box.
28 min: A strange decision out on the right wing, as Townsend grabs a chunk of Thiago’s shirt yet wins the free kick. It’s possibly fortunate for those sick of confected controversy that nothing comes of the resulting set piece.
27 min: Gray is looking lively, the one plus point so far for Everton. He glides in from the left and looks for the top right, only for Van Dijk to head clear.
26 min: Liverpool ping some patient triangles. The home fans boo, the atmosphere curdling. Someone throws another ball onto the pitch. Thiago boots it back into the stand as play goes on. Then Thiago has a go with the actual in-play ball, but his low drive pinballs around a busy box and Everton clear.
25 min: Gray dribbles at Alexander-Arnold and reaches the edge of the Liverpool box, only to hesitate before pulling the trigger. He’s eventually swarmed and stripped of possession.
23 min: One corner leads to another, and the second causes confusion in the Everton box. The ball nearly falls to Van Dijk in the middle of a melee, but he can’t get a shot away. Matip tries a cheeky backheel only to send the ball out for a goal kick.
22 min: Salah wins another corner down the right. Alexander-Arnold’s delivery hits Keane on the hip and nearly sails into the bottom left, Pickford completely wrong-footed. A corner coming in from the other side now.
20 min: The home side were all over the show there, and there are already Everton fans streaming – steaming – out of the ground.
GOAL! Everton 0-2 Liverpool (Salah 19)
This goal is too easy for Liverpool. Thiago gains possession in the centre of the park and feeds Henderson, who immediately sends Salah clear down the inside-right channel. Salah makes it into the box, opens his body, and steers a sensational shot across Pickford and into the top left.
18 min: Richarlison snaffles the ball off Fabinho, and crosses from the right. Gray is lurking in the middle, waiting for the tap-in. Alexander-Arnold gets back to take the ball off Gray’s toe, sending it behind for Everton’s first corner … which turns out to be a non-event.
16 min: Townsend barrels down the right at speed, looking to get past Robertson. He goes down. The home fans want a free kick; the home winger gets a yellow card for simulation.
15 min: Jota dribbles in from the right and cuts back for Alexander-Arnold, who aims for the top right. Pickford, at full stretch, palms around the post for another Liverpool corner. The visitors play it short, and Everton deal with the low cross that eventually comes in from Thiago.
13 min: Gray has a dig from distance. He shanks it well wide right. But this has been a decent response to falling behind by Everton, the first bit of sustained pressure from the home side.
12 min: … but the set piece is no good. Gray goes over on the edge of the box, but there’s no free kick, despite Evertonian protests. Meanwhile in the stand, everyone applauds in memory of Ava White.
11 min: Henderson, full of energy, clips Richarlison to the floor out on the left. The resulting free kick is a chance for Everton to load the box …
GOAL! Everton 0-1 Liverpool (Henderson 9)
It’s fair to say this had been coming. Mane slips Robertson into the box down the left. Robertson cuts back for Henderson, rushing in to the left of the D. He opens his body and steers into the bottom left, Pickford given no chance. What a lovely goal.
8 min: Mane, out on the left, picks out Salah, rushing in, six yards out, level with the near post. Salah whips a first-time shot towards the bottom left. Pickford does very well to get down and parry.
7 min: Everton are playing two up front. On Amazon co-comms, Ally McCoist predicts a productive evening for Robertson and Alexander-Arnold as a result. “It’s brave,” he adds.
6 min: A second corner of the evening for Liverpool, again on the right. Alexander-Arnold takes, and this one is easily cleared, Rondon on point.
5 min: Gray romps down the left and crosses deep. Matip eyebrows away from Rondon, just in time. This is one heck of a fast start.
3 min: Another huge chance for Liverpool, Townsend gifting the ball to Jota on the Liverpool left. Jota crosses, and Salah – who really should go in with his head – high-kicks over the bar from six yards! Just over two minutes in, and Liverpool have already missed two sitters!
2 min: From the corner, Matip wins a header eight yards out. Unchallenged, he’s got to score, but glances his header wide left.
31 sec: Alexander-Arnold, out on the right, rakes a long pass down the channel for Mane, who nearly breaks into the box. Coleman gets in the way and expects Pickford to come and claim, but the keeper hesitates, and Mane forces a corner. Captain and keeper exchange words.
Here we go, then! Liverpool get the ball rolling … but only after the knee is taken. More warm applause. There’s no room for racism.
Here come the teams! Everton wear blue and Liverpool red, like you need to be told. A crackling atmosphere at this famous old stadium as the theme to Z Cars blasts out of the speakers. Benitez and Klopp embrace warmly. Before the match, there will be memorial applause to mark the passing of Ray Kennedy and Cliff Marshall. Fans of both sides have also clubbed together for a banner responding to the tragic murder of 12-year-old Ava White: “No more knives in our city.” We’ll be off soon.
Love is love. The Premier League does its bit for Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign this week, as clubs link arms to show their support for all LGBT+ people both in the world of football and beyond. Rainbow armbands, pin badges, ball plinths, substitute boards, LED perimeter boards, and of course laces, ahoy! More details of a celebration of solidarity, inclusion and love can be found here.
PRE-MATCH PESSIMISM: THE EVERTON WAY addendum. “If your vision of the Rondon scenario occurs,” begins Mary Waltz, “you can send me your favourite recipe for baked crow, or any other form of roadkill, and I will film myself eating it.”
Jurgen Klopp speaks to Amazon. “We are here to play a really good football game. Physicality is normal, but there were two incredible fouls in this game last time. The referees didn’t help. We want to be intense and aggressive and lively, play around them, through them, behind them. We know what we will face today, but we have tried to prepare the boys as good as possible.”
Retro reading. A classic Joy of Six for your edification.
It’s a special bumper edition of PRE-MATCH PESSIMISM: THE EVERTON WAY this evening. “Yes, derbies can’t be judged using normal metrics,” writes Mary Waltz. “At least that is what this Everton fan is hanging onto. But then my rational brain kicks in. On current form this fixture looks like a blowout. Dark pessimism surrounds me. Sigh.”
Fellow Toffee Matt Burtz adds: “Having only supported Everton since about 2012, I haven’t been beaten down by the club’s lack of success since the 1995 FA Cup Final. I wasn’t there to experience the dogged determination of the Moyes era. I didn’t see Duncan Ferguson bang in goals with passion and spirit. I do know the free-flowing attack and lack of basic defending from the Martinez sides, the complete absence of a plan from the Koeman sides, the weak, conservative approach of the Allardyce sides, and the somewhat blunt solidity of the Ancelotti sides.
“I can usually look at the bright side when it comes to Everton and focus on the positives. But today I can’t. This club is such a mess right now. Benitez isn’t the main problem, but he is a problem, and he needs to go. I’ve been to a derby at Goodison where the atmosphere was electric, everything you would want. I would love to be there tonight despite everything because a feisty crowd might be what the team needs right now. But if Liverpool score twice in the first 20 minutes, which is a distinct possibility, that crowd is going to get really toxic, really quick, and I don’t think Benitez can possibly make it until the Arsenal game on Monday. Don’t ask me if they’re going to get sucked into a relegation battle, but it’s not looking great.”
Finally, adding further to the cheer, the legendary Gary Naylor gives his prediction: “I’d take 0-3, no injuries and no red cards right now. And, yes, I’m an Everton fan, not a Liverpool fan.”
Textbook expectation management, or brazen fate-tempting? Either way, I expect on-the-whistle reaction from all three of you should Salomón Rondón send a last-minute winner flying into the top bin from 25 yards.
Rafael ‘I’m a Blue’ Benitez speaks to Amazon Prime. “It’s the best game for us. A derby is a derby and you can change everything. It doesn’t matter the position in the table. If you want to beat Liverpool you need to be strong, that is the Premier League, you have to be strong physically. We must work as a team, stick together, be compact, and help each other; you cannot stop Salah with one player. The fans are amazing for us, the team can run an extra mile if necessary.”
Two changes for Everton in the wake of their 1-0 defeat at Brentford. Richarlison returns from suspension, while Demari Gray, a sub at the weekend, comes back into the starting line-up. Alex Iwobi and Anthony Gordon are benched.
Liverpool make just one change after the 4-0 win over Southampton. Joel Matip replaces Ibrahima Konate, who drops to the bench.
The Merseyside derby is a feisty affair at the best of times. Throw in one team going for the title, another showing relegation form, one or two personal vendettas, and Rafa, and the 239th edition has the potential to be a whole world of fun. Kick-off is at 8.15pm. It’s on!