Liverpool earn a big boost in the race for Champions League qualification, and local bragging rights, with a stunning 4-0 victory over neighbours Everton at Anfield…
The two halves of Merseyside went into this contest separated by just a single point in the league standings and both with depleted squads through injury.
Kop boss Brendan Rodgers made two changes from the side which overcome AFC Bournemouth in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Fit-again Jon Flanagan was restored at full-back and first choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet returned between the sticks.
Like the hosts, who were missing a whole backline in Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho, Glen Johnson and Luis Enrique, Everton had selection issues of their own defensively.
Summer recruit Antolin Alcaraz and youngster John Stones were handed rare starts in the absence of Sylvain Distin and Seamus Coleman.
An exciting opening few minutes saw both sides threatening with Ross Barkley narrowly striking a long-range drive over the bar.
Jordan Henderson went one better for the hosts and found the target with a dipping volley but Tim Howard managed to palm the ball away from danger.
Good pressing by Raheem Sterling then allowed Luis Suarez a sight of goal but again Howard got across to the shot, this time turning it behind for a corner.
A corner from which Henderson wastefully fired over after the ball had been pulled back to the England man just inside the area.
Everton were enjoying plenty of possession as the opening 15 minutes went by but for the most part is was within their own half as the men in red pressed impressively.
Suarez and Steven Gerrard had further efforts from distance before Sterling forced a sharp block from Howard following a great through-ball by Daniel Sturridge.
The opening goal, which the Reds had been increasingly threatening to deliver, arrived in the 21st minute as Gerrard rose highest to power home a Suarez corner.
Stones could of perhaps done more to keep the ball out on the line and Everton’s dismay was further compounded by an ankle injury suffered by Romelu Lukaku during the same set piece.
The unfortunate Belgium, who was inadvertently fallen on by team mate Gareth Barry, subsequently had to be replaced by Steven Naismith.
A speedy counter-attack, started by a great Gerrard block and involving Philippe Coutinho and Suarez, almost led to number two as Sturridge narrowly curled over from the edge of the area.
Sturridge was growing into the game as the half developed but his sliced clearance almost helped the Blues equalise as Kevin Mirallas cut inside and fed Gareth Barry who in turn forced a good diving stop out of the previously un-worked Mignolet.
More good work from Mirallas followed a couple of minutes later when the 26-year-old again cut in from the right before narrowly missing the target with a technically excellent low drive.
Everton’s period on top was brought to a sudden halt in the 33rd minute though when Coutinho sent Sturridge away with a pinpoint pass. The England international advanced on Howard and calmly slotted it past the big American.
Two became three just seconds after the restart and it was via Sturridge again.
A long punt forward by Kolo Toure found the visiting rearguard napping and the former Chelsea man exquisitely lifted an awkward bouncing ball over Howard on the turn.
Roberto Martinez’s beleaguered men did well to finish the half strongly, forcing a succession of corners, but a vital goal that could have raised hopes of a fight-back failed to materialise before the interval.
As expected Everton also started the second half with tempo and intent; half-time substitute Leon Osman quickly testing Mignolet.
It was short lived however as Phil Jagielka sloppily gave possession to Suarez on the halfway line five minutes after the restart.
Neither Jagielka nor Alcaraz could make up the ground as the Uruguayan advanced on goal and side-footed past Howard to add number four.
It should have gone from bad to worse moments later when Martin Skrtel charged forward and facilitated Coutinho setting Sterling away.
The speedster was duly felled by Howard and a penalty was rightly awarded by referee Martin Atkinson.
Up stepped Sturridge looking to complete his hat-trick, perhaps surprisingly so given Gerrard usually takes penalties, and the striker was made to rue his decision as he blazed the spot kick high into the Kop.
The impressive Coutinho struck a post around the hour mark but from that point on the contest become a slightly more uneventful affair.
Credit must go to the visitors who continued to look for goals despite the result being beyond them; James McCarthy forcing a great stop out of Mignolet.
Less selfishness from Sturridge will have surely made it 5-0 but, rather than teeing up either Coutinho or Suarez, he tried to go it alone and the chance was duly lost.
It was to prove the former Chelsea man’s final involvement as Rodgers introduced Victor Moses at his expense with 20 minutes remaining.
Naismith was inches away from a late consolation but the Scottish international couldn’t quite stretch far enough to divert home McCarthy’s pacy cross-cum-shot.
A series of substitutions from both sides punctuated the final stages but the result had long been decided.
A fantastic performance and an amazing result, all played out in an awe-inspiring atmosphere. We have struggled at times in recent weeks and hopefully this will serve to kick start our momentum as the season enters a crucial faze. Like the contest at Goodison in November, this was an engrossing affair with both sides throwing caution to the wind. Everton were hindered by losing Lukaku early on and our better striking quality ultimately proved the difference. Keeping a clean sheet is also pleasing although at times it was as much by luck than judgement in a pulsating game which was probably closer than the score line suggests. Hopefully the final couple of days of the transfer window will prove equally fruitful!
Philippe Coutinho – There were so many great performances from the men in red. The big game players such as Suarez and Gerrard played their part, and Sturridge scored two excellent goals, but Coutinho was more than a match for his more illustrious colleagues. The Brazilian hasn’t been in the best of form lately and doubts persist over his ability to shine when games are physical and of this importance. On this evidence those concerns can be swept aside. Not only did Coutinho probe and invent, as we know he can, he worked hard and also got stuck-in, breaking up a number of dangerous looking Everton attacks.
Mignolet, Flanagan (Kelly 73′), Skrtel, Toure, Cissokho, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho (Alberto 79′), Sterling, Suarez, Sturridge (Moses 72′).
Unused subs: Jones, Smith, Ibe, Aspas.
Click here to read the manager’s reaction
Click here to see comprehensive match stats
Follow me on Twitter @superbag
|Not a Vital Liverpool member? It’s 100% free to join & only takes a few moments to sign up. Click here to become a member or alternatively simply sign in using Social Media!|