An injury-plagued Liverpool team which had had two sub-par performances in a row was host to what has been a very impressive Everton side this season. Everton showed consistently this season their mettle and style under Roberto Martinez, and have undoubtedly convinced that they are top four contenders.
Everton’s ability to control the game in midfield and make good use of the ball was an additional concern for us, as we were without Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva – both of whom are integral to our system under Rodgers.
The 3-3 draw in the reverse fixture this season, Everton also showed that they have the ability to push us to the limit, and were confident in possession and fearless.
As a result, there was a great sense of nervousness around the derby, in lieu of the norm of excitement and optimism.
A bright start from the Reds and an early goal from Steven Gerrard went some way to settling the nerves.
Up until the goal, Liverpool looked vibrant and sharp. The sheer speed at which we interchanged the ball was sublime, and we looked a constant threat going forward.
Though Everton managed to supress the early attempts and force us to shoot from distance, Gerrard’s opener unsettled their defence and their shape was all over the place thereafter.
Daniel Sturridge’s first goal came when he found free space in Everton’s defensive third when young fullback John Stones committed himself forward. Coutinho picked out Sturridge with the kind of accuracy he showed off last season, and Sturridge showed his lethal touch in front of goal.
Sturridge’s second came right after, after a punt from Kolo Toure found the England forward who timed his run perfectly and looped the ball over ‘keeper Tim Howard who rushed out to quell the attack.
For both his goals Sturridge showed the level of his killer instinct in front of goal. He manages to be completely alert and one step ahead of defences in his movement. His finishing really is a class apart, and it is difficult to remember the last Liverpool striker who converted this effortlessly.
Our fourth came through Suarez doggedness to win possession back, energy and strength to race half the length of the field and precision to slot the ball into the bottom corner.
The preparation for the match was very impressive. Even though we used the same starting XI that we did in the poor 2-2 draw against Aston Villa, the tactics and system was completely different.
Our counter-attacking was remarkably swift and decisive. We allowed Everton to have the ball and rather blocked their attempts rather than coming out to snuff attacks. This limited the number of their passing angles as there was always a compact wall of red shirts in the way.
When we won back possession, we either used Gerrard to hit it long or relied on Coutinho to pick up the ball in midfield and drive forward and play through passes. In doing so, we left no room for a midfield battle – acknowledging that we would not be able to win it, and adapting accordingly.
We appeared to have learned from mistakes and showed enough character to triumph emphatically in what was, on paper, a very difficult game all things considered. The idea that we treat all games as a cup final was palpable yet again in this game.
Whilst it can be correctly pointed out that Everton seemed as if the occasion got to them and did not perform, it cannot be said that we did not thoroughly deserve the win.
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