Excitement and anticipation were in the air, as the Merseyside derby kicked off on Saturday. Coming into this game, a lot had been written about the decade-old dominance by the red part of Merseyside in this derby.
Carlo Ancelotti, the Everton coach had reposed his faith in the team stating in the pre-match conference, stating how his team looked focussed and was in good spirits. While Jurgen Klopp, who was still smarting from the 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa, compared the defeat to being punched in the face. The German went on to state, that this defeat could act as a catalyst to jump-start their season and was a good wake up call.
Under Ancelloti, the Toffee’s have made a rapid start to this season and there was an air of quiet positivity at Goodison Park, as Everton looked to put the decade-old voodoo to rest. The 237th derby between the red and the blue half of the city kicked off without fans and the raucous atmosphere that this rivalry brings to the fore.
Instead, it was the players on the pitch which created the ambience for a thrilling derby. Here is a look at some of the talking points from the Merseyside derby:
#1. Questionable decisions spice up Merseyside derby
Whether Pickford should have stayed on the pitch or not, is a point of debate. The manner in which the English international flung himself into Van Dijk in the opening minutes of the game to end the Dutchman’s role in the derby was sorely felt by Liverpool.
Pickford literally scissor tackled the central defender to leave him writhing on the floor. The offside flag helped his cause but should Michael Oliver have had a relook at the tackle instead of relying on VAR, things may have been different.
However, that was not to be and Pickford stayed on to pull off crucial saves to keep Everton in the game. Similarly, as the game entered the final stages a no-look pass by Thiago released Mane down the left channel, who crossed to the unmarked Henderson.
The Liverpool captain’s side-footed shot found the back of the net, only for VAR to intervene and rule out what could have been a legitimate goal and a winner. Klopp was left fuming and to add salt to injury, it now seems that even Thiago may have picked up a knock after the wild tackle from Richarlison.
#2. Calvert Lewin rises above all to write himself into Everton folklore
The English forward was on target once again for his club. The striker became the first player to score in each of Everton’s first five league games in a season since Tommy Lawton in 1938-39 and in the process ensured his presence in the annals of Everton football history. The Everton forward did express his frustration of now winning the game, but nevertheless was an aerial threat throughout the game.
The forward’s hold up play has been excellent and he excelled against the suspect defence of Gomez and Matip. The Everton striker, time and again held up the ball to bring his teammate into play and his understanding with fellow forward Richarlison, was there for everyone to see. While it is too early to predict, the forward does seem to be on course to be one of the top strikers in this league.
#3. Mo Salah reaches a milestone in the Merseyside derby
With 100 goals from 159 games, Salah continues to enthral every time he is on the ball. The Egyptian looked well-rested and grabbed a deserved lead for the Reds, only for Everton to peg back.
An accurately slammed finish by the Egyptian was a glimpse of how clinical the forward has become. However, the most important contribution of the Egyptian in this game was the defensive work-rate that he put in over the course of this game.
Salah was on hand to assist Trent Alexander Arnold, every time Everton looked to release Digne down the left flank. And barring the cross which led to Calvert Lewin’s equalizer, there was hardly any joy for the Toffees down that flank. More importantly, the winger was a threat every time he received the ball in the opponent’s half. His early diagonal ball for Robertson created the first goal which showcased his range of passing.
#4. Pickford’s – Jekyll and Hyde performance
Once again Pickford’s performance left everyone puzzled. After a disastrous game during the international break with his national side, Pickford was again at the centre of controversy. Whether Pickford deserved a red card or not can be a point of contention, but the keeper deserved booking for sure for his reckless challenge as early as the 6th minute.
Thereafter, the keeper followed that up with some outstanding saves throughout the game. Keeping the likes of Alexander Arnold and Fabinho and others from finding the back of the net brought to fore his superb acrobatic skills. However, as has been shown time and again a flawless performance could have been easily undone by the weak effort that he put to stop Henderson’s shot on goal.
#5. Liverpool’s Mane provides a quick-fire start
Redemption arrived early for Liverpool as they took the lead within the first 3 minutes of the game. The clock read 2 minutes 15 seconds when Mane latched on to a cross by Andy Robertson to fire home the opener. The Senegalese had missed the Reds last defeat and here he was on hand to calm any nerves that the squad may have felt going into the game.
Having earned the accolade of scoring the fastest goal in a Merseyside derby, the winger was a threat throughout the afternoon. His strength, trickery, and pace were a lesson for the defenders and at times the only way to stop the marauding forward was to hack him down. Despite the unwarranted tackles, the Liverpool man kept on going and almost provided the winner before VAR intervened.