Liverpool made history at Anfield last night by recording the biggest winning margin in a Mersey derby since 1982, with a 4-0 triumph over bitter rivals Everton.
Steven Gerrard, who led by example, scored the first goal and acted as an impressively secure shield in front of his team’s back four. He leapt above the Everton backline to head home the opener after twenty-one minutes and looked a man possessed as he ran towards corner taker Luis Suarez to celebrate. After much criticism of his deployment as the deep lying midfielder, he rolled back the years with a remarkably impressive performance that encapsulated long range passing, tackles, blocks and leadership.
Gerrard’s sixth strike of the season was also Liverpool’s 150th in the fixture – and his ninth against the rivals from across Stanley Park.
Daniel Sturridge made sure of victory with two strikes within the space of a few minutes not long after his captain had sent the team on their way. His first was calm and assured while his second was an example of just how accomplished a striker the former Manchester City and Chelsea man has become. Sturridge got his opening goal after an a fine through pass from Philippe Coutinho, who also looked in fine form, played him in on goal with just Tim Howard to beat. And beat him he did with a calm slot into the right hand corner of the net. His second, and Liverpool’s third, was a strike of pure class that few strikers in the game could pull. Aly Cissokho lofted a ball forward which saw the Everton defence attempt to play Sturridge offside. It didn’t work. The England man allowed the ball to bounce across his back before lifting it over the on-rushing Howard into the net. It was a measured and calculated strike that elated the home fans as much as it deflated the visiting Toffees.
It could have been better for Sturridge after fifty-four minutes when he was presented with an opportunity to become just the eighth man to score a hat-trick in the Merseyside derby after Raheem Sterling was felled in the box by Howard. Steven Gerrard later said that he handed the ball to Sturridge to allow him the chance to savour the feeling that he himself had in the same fixture two years ago. But Sturridge went for power over placement and put too much on a shot that raced over the top of the bar.
Fortunately for Sturridge, and Liverpool, Luis Suarez had put his side 4-0 up and out of sight shortly after half time when he slotted past Howard neatly after cashing in on Phil Jagielka’s defensive error on the halfway line. The Uruguayan striker was having a relatively quiet game by his high standards and it would have been a surprise to anyone switching on at 3-0 that he hadn’t scored any of them. It was his 23rd league goal of the season and he now has nine more than Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and ten more than team-mate Sturridge – who he was less than impressed with after seventy minutes when the England forward had the opportunity to square for him but he ended up in a tangle on a floor after a weak shot.
That was to be Sturridge’s last action in a pulsating match as Brendan Rodgers decided to withdraw him for Victor Moses in the 72nd minute. The twenty-four year old appeared less than impressed that he was being withdrawn as he appeared to sulk off onto the bench. He later apologised in a post-match interview and said that he was just annoyed with himself for missing the penalty. It was a sign of maturity from the striker that many had accused him of lacking in the past.
Everton had started brightly, with a Ross Barkley strike whistling over Simon Mignolet’s goal after less than two minutes. The young England midfielder, who will be hoping to make it into Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad this Summer, didn’t seem fit and wasn’t at his sharpest as he was comfortably shackled by his national captain Gerrard. Kevin Mirallas, on the other hand, was a constant spark of anything good the visitors offered, which wasn’t much, as he refused to give up on his side. Few other Everton players can come out the game with much credit, however, as they were caught on the counter attack savagely on three occasions. They had plenty of possession, but just couldn’t do much with it. They did look more threatening with Leon Osman’s introduction at half time in place of the ineffective Steven Pienaar, but they still couldn’t make the breakthrough. They would likely have been more of a threat had Romelu Lukaku not been stretchered off immediately after Gerrard’s opening goal, after being caught by team-mate Gareth Barry in the aerial battle.
Lukaku’s replacement, Steven Naismith, came closer than anyone to notching a goal for Everton as he couldn’t quite get onto the end of James McCarthy’s cross shot after the former Wigan Athletic midfielder made an impressive run into the box following some neat and determined play from Mirallas.
The result will come as a great spur for a Liverpool side hanging on to fourth place after a disappointing 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, while Everton will be feeling hugely deflated having been presented with the opportunity to leapfrog their rivals into fourth place with a first victory on their soil since Kevin Campbell lifted them to victory all the way back in 1999 at Anfield.