Liverpool fell to their first Anfield Merseyside derby league defeat to Everton since 1999 after a 2-0 reversal against their neighbours. The loss means the defending champions have now lost four home league games on the spin.
Goals from Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurðsson condemned the Reds to defeat after an insipid, lifeless performance from the hosts. Injuries and VAR controversy — the two banes of Liverpool’s season — reared their ugly heads again with Jordan Henderson being forced off with what looked like a hamstring injury.
The Toffees, meanwhile, were awarded a controversial penalty when Dominic Calvert Lewin ran into Trent Alexander-Arnold and was, inexplicably, given the spot-kick. Referee Chris Kavanagh barely glanced at the VAR pitchside monitor before sticking with his on-pitch decision. Sigurðsson nonetheless stepped up and slotted home the game killing goal from twelve yards.
Looking devoid of attacking ideas, a factor only made worse by the swirling wind that buffeted around Anfield, the home team struggled to break down Everton. Carlo Ancelotti had his team organised into a watertight 352 formation that denied Liverpool any kind of space and the opportunity to create openings.
With James Rodriguez and Richarlison upfront, the latter of the two who was often used as an out ball on the counter, the Toffees looked incisive on the break and it was through this duo that they opened the scoring after only three minutes.
Ozan Kabak, whose introduction to English league football has proven extremely difficult, misjudged the flight of a long ball and Everton picked up the second ball just outside Liverpool’s box. With their defensive line fractured, Rodriguez played a through ball into space for Richarlison to run onto. One versus one with Alisson, the Brazilian fired past his compatriot to give the away team the lead.
Liverpool huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser, but their build-up play was predictable and slow and all in areas of the pitch that didn’t hurt their opponents. The closest the Reds came in a frustrating first half was through Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, both of whose long drives were saved well by Jordan Pickford, although both saves would have been chalked down as routine.
The second half followed much of the same pattern, with the home team dominating the ball but not turning the lion’s share of possession into threatening chances. Two Sadio Mane headers — one of which he really should have done better with — and a Roberto Firmino chance was the best the defending champions could muster.
Pouring forward, Liverpool were exposing themselves to counter-attacks and it was through this method that Everton plundered their second goal. Richarlison beat Nat Phillips — who had earlier replaced Henderson — for pace before working a cross into the box aimed at Calvert Lewin.
With Alexander-Arnold on the ground after attempting to cut out the cross, the Everton forward fell onto the Reds’ full-back, kneeing him in the head in the process. Referee Kavanagh, viewers could scarcely believe, pointed to the spot and didn’t even change his mind after consulting the VAR pitchside monitor — although, in truth, he barely glanced at it — and the decision stood.
Alisson guessed the right way, but Sigurðsson placed the penalty perfectly and Everton held out for their first win at Anfield in 22 years.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Kabak, Henderson, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Jones, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Replacements: Phillips for Henderson, Shaqiri for Jones, Origi for Thiago.
Subs not used: Adrian, Davies, Tsimikas, Williams, Keita, Oxlade Chamberlain.