|Liverpool had every reason to celebrate last night|
It was the Reds’ largest derby victory since Ian Rush famously scored four in a 5-0 victory at Goodison Park in 1982. Sturridge, who scored two in two minutes in the first half, had the chance to bag a hat trick and replicate that result from the penalty spot in the second half but surprisingly spurned the opportunity and blasted high into the Kop.
That proved inconsequential, though, as the game was long over by that point.
That fact demonstrates the Reds’ supremacy right from the word ‘go’. Liverpool started with a high tempo as the derby, as it always does, began at a frenetic pace. Henderson, Suarez and Sturridge all tested Howard in the opening stages, before the American keeper was called into action once again to deny Sterling, who had been sent through on goal by Sturridge.
He could do nothing to prevent Gerrard breaking the deadlock three minutes later, though, as the skipper rose highest to emphatically head home Luis Suarez’s left wing corner at the near post.
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To make matters worse for the visitors, Gareth Barry inadvertently injured teammate Lukaku at the corner kick which led to the goal, meaning he had to be replaced by Naismith, who posed a much less severe threat to Liverpool’s defence.
Nonetheless, Everton responded brightly, Mignolet beating away Barry’s effort and Mirallas shooting narrowly off target. However, ruthless counter-attacking football from Liverpool proved lethal.
First, Coutinho took advantage of the space afforded him by Everton, sliding a wonderful pass through to Sturridge, who finished with typical ease. Then, Toure’s long ball forward, which should have been dealt with easily by Everton, breached the Toffees’ flat backline and allowed Sturridge to lift the ball over the onrushing Howard and into the net.
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Everton regrouped and came out with renewed purpose after the break, starting the second period the better and putting the hosts under early pressure. Their resurgence was short-lived, though, as another mistake from the Blues allowed Luis Suarez to put the final nail in their coffin only five minutes after the restart.
Capitalising on a poor pass from Jagielka, Suarez stole possession on the half way line. The Uruguayan still had plenty to do, but proceeded to dribble half the length of the pitch to reach the penalty area and send a clinical finish into the back of the net.
It was the customary piece of class that we’ve come to expect from the inimitable number seven, who must surely be the best striker in the world right now.
Unfortunately the other half of the SAS couldn’t make it five, as Sturridge blazed his spot kick high into the Kop after Howard had been penalised by referee Martin Atkinson for bringing down Sterling in the box.
The most disappointing point in the night came when Sturridge was later substituted, as the frustrated number 15 made his annoyance at being replaced by Moses while still chasing his hat-trick abundantly clear to boss Brendan Rodgers.
Apart from that unsavoury incident, for which Sturridge quickly apologised after the match, the Merseyside derby couldn’t have gone better for the red half of the city.
Steven Gerrard returned to form with a bang, Coutinho was at his creative best and the SAS were firing on all cylinders, while Flanagan slotted effortlessly back into the team with a good display at right back and Skrtel showed why he has been the Reds’ best defender so far this season with another assured performance.
This convincing win cements Liverpool’s place in the top four and, combined with Arsenal dropping points at Southampton, potentially puts them back in the title race, as they sit only six points behind the Gunners, who are the next to visit Anfield in ten days’ time.
If the Reds demonstrate the same sort of passion, intensity and quality for the rest of the season there seems no reason why they cannot compete with the likes of the London side at the top of the table, leaving Everton to battle it out with Manchester United for fourth place.