Reds into round four of the FA Cup with a 2-1 win over neighbours Everton at Anfield…
Liverpool’s recent dominance of matches against local rivals Everton continued on Friday night as they extended their unbeaten run against the Toffees to a record 16 matches.
Both sides fielded strong line-ups for their third round FA Cup tie but the headline name on the team sheets was undoubtedly new £75million Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.
The opening half hour raced by and featured plenty of endeavour and commitment from both sides but without either keeper being unduly troubled.
The hosts had the vast majority of a number of speculative efforts from distance, while their all-action left-back Andrew Robertson was required to make a couple of timely interventions defensively.
Everton were certainly showing far more intent than they had in the drawn league meeting last month but they were undone in the 35th minute when Mason Holgate naively conceded a penalty for putting his hands on Adam Lallana and James Milner calmly slotted home.
Clearly upset by a perceived misfortune, Holgate was involved in a flashpoint moments later when he dangerously pushed Roberto Firmino into the crowd to trigger an unsavoury melee that surprisingly ended without any cards being brandished.
The spot kick award, like the one given against Dejan Lovren last time these two met, was certainly on the soft side, particularly as Sadio Mané was afforded the opportunity to miss a presentable opening before referee Robert Madley decided to pull things back.
Robertson was required to glance the ball away from Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the opening exchanges of the second half but the better chances were regularly falling to Liverpool as both Joe Gomez and Lallana wasted theirs.
Out of almost nothing though, a swift 67th minute counter attack drew Everton level when Gylfi Sigurðsson added an assured finishing touch to a move that involved a lung-busting run forward from veteran defender Phil Jagielka.
The goal triggered an open, entertaining period as both sides went in search of a winner in a fantastic cup tie played out against the fervour of a brilliant Anfield atmosphere.
If a side deserved one it was surely Liverpool, especially given, for all their improvements going forward, Everton had still only managed three shots in total at this point, scoring with their only effort on target.
It duly arrived with six minutes remaining when van Dijk beat Pickford to the ball at the Kop end to make himself an instant Anfield hero and deposit a sizeable initial repayment on the club’s massive investment.
“We had to really work a lot and that’s all we were asking for before the game,” analysed Kop boss Jürgen Klopp at his post-match press conference. “We said we needed to be ready for the hardest work because we want to go to the next round and everyone needs to see that.
“They scored their equaliser, which was just bad protection from us… Bolasie was completely free because we didn’t react good in the last line with two versus one. Then both came there and the pass was there for Jagielka.
“It was a good run from him and then for Sigurdsson – not only for him but especially for him – it’s like it was one yard to go until the goal for him. An easy goal for him and then we had to react again. We did it and so I am really happy about it.”
Asked about van Dijk’s debut, Klopp replied: “Nice one! A fairytale in a world with not a lot of fairytales anymore, so I think something like that is quite special.
“It was a difficult decision to make, to be honest, because, to be 100 per cent honest, the first plan was not to start him tonight but… I made the decision this morning that Virgil will start – and obviously it was a good idea in the end because the whole game was good.
“He showed a lot of things we want him to show in the future very often tonight; heading of course, football-wise his first touch was good, good under pressure and then around set-pieces a proper threat.”
Liverpool now have the luxury of a full eight-day break, some of which will be spent warm weather training in Dubai, before they face table toppers Manchester City in the Premier League at Anfield next Sunday.
The draw for the next round of the FA Cup will be made on Monday evening before Crystal Palace face Brighton & Hove Albion in the final third round tie.
So that’s what both us and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below…
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