Liverpool took a giant leap towards the top four as they downed local rivals Everton 4-0 under a floodlit Anfield.
Goals from Gerrard, Sturridge (x2) and Suárez consigned Everton to the worst Merseyside derby defeat since 1982. Lining up with almost the same personnel who started the Aston Villa game – replacing Glen Johnson with Jon Flanagan – the Reds went about soaking up Everton pressure before embarking on blistering counter attacks which left Roberto Martinez’s men in a state of shock after a first half which included three high quality Liverpool goals. The result means much more than local bragging rights with Liverpool now four points clear of their bitter rivals, as well as being three points clear of fifth placed Tottenham, and having a significant goal difference advantage over both.
The match started with Liverpool completely dominant but it was Ross Barkley who created the first half chance of the game. The young midfielder fizzed a left footed strike just over Simon Mignolet’s crossbar from around 30 yards – it was a good signal of intent from the confident attacker but Everton’s threat never materialised. Liverpool made all the running and made several openings which required varying degrees of urgency from Tim Howard. Henderson threatened first for the home side when the ball sat up kindly on the edge of the Everton box, his dipping volley was turned away at a comfortable height by Howard. Sterling came closest for Liverpool when he was put through on goal by Sturridge only for Howard to stick a foot out and thwart a certain goal. Suárez was also looking busy, looking to test the Toffees’ goalkeeper with early snapshots from outside the box.
The goal came from a relatively underused source – Steven Gerrard’s head. Suárez curled in a delicious corner that was just asking to be converted when Gerrard rose highest in a busy penalty area – things were made even worse for Everton when Gareth Barry, attempting to stop Gerrard from connecting with the cross, took out Romelu Lukaku who had to be stretchered off with a protective strap around his ankle. Sturridge went close to doubling the lead in the 27th minute when Suárez set him up for a right footed curler from just outside the box.
It was at this point that Everton appeared to shift into life a little more with Phil Jagielka forcing a good save out of Simon Mignolet despite stretching to his left to get the shot off, Barry fluffed his follow-up shot too to leave the Reds’ lead intact. Mirallas came close next with a low drive from distance that was skidding and spinning along the greasy Anfield turf, to the relief of Mirallas’ Belgian counterpart the ball finished up just wide of the ‘keeper’s right hand post.
However, despite the apparent emergence of Everton as a threat in the game, Liverpool doubled their lead a mere minute later with Philippe Coutinho instrumental. Everton were dispossessed on their left hand side before the ball was worked to Coutinho who glided forward before threading a through-ball to Daniel Sturridge – who had been completely left unattended by Blues youngster John Stones who had gambled on the ball being switched and pushed forward. The England striker slotted the ball over Tim Howard to double the Reds’ advantage.
Delight turned to complete euphoria just two minutes later when Kolo Touré found Daniel Sturridge with a simple, straight, over the top ball. The in-form striker then expertly lobbed the ball over the on-rushing Howard to send everyone associated with Liverpool into complete delirium.
Everton started the second half strongly with substitute Leon Osman coming close after finding space inside the Liverpool penalty area before curling a shot towards the top corner which was stopped superbly by Simon Mignolet. However, any recovery was soon ended as Suárez intercepted a square Jagielka pass before sprinting half the length of the field to coolly slot a left footed finish past Tim Howard – the Uruguayan’s 23rd goal of the season.
With the game dead and buried at 4-0 there was still time for Liverpool to earn a 54th minute penalty when Howard brought Raheem Sterling to the ground with the ball poked beyond the American’s reach. Sturridge was gifted the ball by captain Steven Gerrard, only to scream the ball high into the Kop.
The game began to fizzle out at this point with Liverpool more than happy to defend against Everton’s long periods of possession. There was time for Coutinho to flash a strike onto the outside of Howard’s near post but other than that there was little attacking worthy of note.
Man of the match – Daniel Sturridge
Match Stats and Ratings are below
Are you from near the Midlands area? If so you should attend A Night in Birmingham with John Barnes, John Aldridge and Jason McAteer!
Former Anfield Index Podcast guest host Noreen Khan is the host and there’s a three course curry on the menu! All proceeds to charity!