LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool’s 2-0 victory in a frantic 240th Merseyside derby on Sunday kept its quadruple bid on track while pushing Everton slightly closer to a first relegation in 71 years.
Andrew Robertson’s second goal of the season produced the vital breakthrough after 62 minutes of dogged resistance from the visitors, before Divock Origi enhanced his derby legacy with his sixth goal in nine cross-city matches.
This was far from the humiliation many predicted — and Toffees fans feared — as Everton’s players showed they can be organized and put up a fight. But the one thing manager Frank Lampard could not bridge was the gulf in class.
Victory reduced Liverpool’s deficit to leader Manchester City back to one point, while leaving Everton two points from safety.
Everton started the game in the bottom three after Burnley’s victory over Wolverhampton and things got worse for the visitors before a ball was even kicked at Anfield.
An injury to Ben Godfrey in the warm-up meant they took the field having changed both center backs from the midweek draw with Leicester, Michael Keane the late replacement alongside Mason Holgate with Yerry Mina rested completely following his comeback against the Foxes after two months out with a thigh problem.
But that did not alter Everton’s tactics, which were understandably evident from the off — get behind the ball in a 4-5-1, eat up as much time as possible at restarts and frustrate their opponents.
It could have been an approach straight out of the playbook of Lampard’s former mentor, Jose Mourinho, who famously came here in 2014 with Chelsea and secured a win to derail a Reds title bid.
It certainly worked for 45 minutes as Liverpool was limited to just three shots, none of which were on target, despite 86% possession.
The fact Everton completed only 32 passes in the first half — the fewest by a team in the opening period of a Premier League game since Watford’s 30 in November 2006 — was inconsequential to the overall game plan.
Richarlison, who was frequently on the ground and spent a lot of time getting treatment, and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who collapsed to the ground like a weary marathon runner when collecting the ball in his hands, drew most of the ire from the home fans.
Anthony Gordon also trod a fine line, with his booking for a dive in the penalty area from a non-existent Naby Keita challenge his worst offense.
Half of the 12 Premier League bookings for simulation this season have been for Everton players, with three alone against Liverpool. But it was all part of the ploy to disrupt and disturb, and the hosts fell into the frustration trap.
The game had a more old-school derby feel about it, with Diogo Jota and Seamus Coleman involved in one confrontation which saw the Liverpool player pushing a hand towards the defender’s face in retaliation to a challenge, and Sadio Mane in the middle of a melee of 21 players after Abdoulaye Doucoure was booked for chopping down Fabinho.
Everton had the better chances early in the second half as Gordon and Alex Iwobi both directed attempts wide.
Prior to that, Joel Matip’s tangle with Gordon inside the area looked like it could have risked a penalty but referee Stuart Atwell didn’t award it.
Jurgen Klopp sent on Luis Diaz and Origi just before the hour and the latter, who has made a habit of making his own personal derby history, combined with Mohamed Salah for Robertson to head home unmarked at the far post.
The deluge looked like it would start with Diaz and Salah, who volleyed over, having chances before Demarai Gray whistled a shot past Alisson Becker’s right-hand post to show the visitors were not yet done.
Robertson then proved his worth at the other end with a vital block to prevent an equalizer from Iwobi.
Fittingly Origi, who has barely played this season, finished things off with a close-range header five minutes from time.
The party rolls on at Anfield, with a Champions League semifinal first leg at home to Villarreal on Wednesday, but things do not get any easier for Everton with Chelsea up next at Goodison at the weekend.
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