Liverpool continued their upward trajectory under Jurgen Klopp and heaped yet further pressure on Everton manager Roberto Martinez after cruisng to a 4-0 win in the Wednesday’s Merseyside Derby at Anfield. A night that was already going badly for Everton after their defense allowed headed goals for Divock Origi and Mamadou Sakho in the final three minutes of the first half, became near farcical in the second period.
First, Ramiro Funes Mori committed a horror challenge on Origi, going in high on his ankle, leaving the Liverpool striker to be stretchered off and the Everton defender the recipient of a red card. An already porous defense had now become weaker still and it did not take long to crumble further. Lucas Leiva seized upon John Stones’ errant ball out of defense before brilliantly playing in Daniel Sturridge to make it 3-0.
That Stones immediately followed his error by limping off the pitch only compounded Everton’s misery and leaves them potentially without their three first-choice center-backs ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal against Manchester United. Morale must also be in desperately short supply, too, with Philippe Coutinho only dampening the mood further on the blue half of Merseyside by making it 4-0 with a fine strike from 25 yards.
Everton went into the game fresh from confirmation that they would finish this season with their worst home record in top-flight history. And Martinez, who has been the subject of protests from Everton fans in their past two games, admitted that this was a defining week in their campaign.
It could not have started much worse. The promise that hummed around Goodison Park in the lead up to the first Merseyside derby of the season just six months ago now seems light years away. In contrast, Liverpool, who followed that 1-1 draw in October by dismissing Brendan Rodgers and luring Klopp to Anfield are now a club looking forward with boundless optimism once more.
It is now four straight wins for Klopp’s men, a run which, of course, included a famous comeback against Borussia Dortmund to reach the semifinals of the Europa League. While that competition now looks their only realistic path to the Champions League for next season, Klopp was adamant in the lead up to his first Merseyside derby that the fixture and the remainder of the Premier League fixtures would retain his full attention.
With these three points, Liverpool move up to seventh place, six points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, with five points remaining. It is the promise or further achievement, though, which will have excited Liverpool fans most about their performance on Wednesday and those of similar quality in recent weeks.
Everton had actually begun the encounter brightly, but quickly Liverpool took charge. Adam Lallana really should have put the hosts in front, but, put through by Coutinho, he saw his low shot blocked by Joel Robles. When the Everton goalkeeper also denied Roberto Firmino, the teams looked set to go into the half-time interval level.
Instead, the defensive frailties that have plagued Everton all season reared their head once more to allow Liverpool to take a decisive grip on the match. First, in the 43rd minute, James Milner put in a deep cross from the right and Origi was allowed to rise above two Everton defenders at the back post to net his fifth goal in his last five appearances.
Inexcusably, Everton then allowed Liverpool to double their lead by similar means in first-half injury time. Again it was Milner who delivered a cross, this time from the left, and Sakho was remarkably left completely free in the center of the six-yard box to score surely the simplest goal of his career.
Everton badly needed a fighting response in the second half, but not of the kind Funes Mori displayed only five minutes after the restart. The Argentine’s tackle was a disgrace as was his subsequent conduct, grabbing the Everton badge on his shirt on his way off the pitch, as if the tackle had been an act of commitment rather than a thoughtless abandonment of his teammates.
Against a center-back partnership of Stones and Muhamed Basic, and then, after Stones went off, Basic and his fellow midfielder James McCarthy, Liverpool opened up further wounds on their local foes. Had they be so minded, there was the distinct impression that Liverpool could have inflicted yet further damage. As it was, they did plenty to reinforce the impression that the two Merseyside rivals are heading in very different directions.