For the first time this century, Everton has defeated Liverpool on the latter’s home field. The last time the Toffees won at Anfield was in September 1999. The last time we beat Liverpool anywhere was in 2010. According to ESPN, no major big-city derby anywhere in the world has been so one-sided.
Winning at Anfield isn’t the same when there are no fans present. But since we might not win there again in my lifetime, I celebrated as if there had been 50,000 Liverpool supporters singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” before the match.
The score was 2-0, and I’d like to say that Everton ran all over the Shite. But that wasn’t the case. What happened was that our two South American stars — James Rodriguez (Colombia) and Richarlison (Brazil) — combined beautifully for a goal early in the match, and after that we relied on brilliant defending and maybe a little bit of luck to withstand the persistent and intermittently threatening Red attack.
We got our second goal late in the match on a penalty kick by Gylfi Sigurdsson after Trent Alexander-Arnold tripped Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Sigurdsson has a mixed history with penalty kicks both for Everton and Iceland, but he kept his nerve and placed this kick out of reach of the goalkeeper, who had guessed correctly where Gylfi would direct it.
The story of the match was our defense and, to a lesser degree, our defensive tactics. Carlo Ancelloti, managing in only his second Anfield Derby, set us up with four in the back, plus a spare defender — Seamus Coleman, the only current player to have beaten Liverpool in an Everton shirt — to man mark Liverpool’s outstanding left back, Andy Robertson.
In practice, this meant that we often had five in the back, but Coleman also tracked Robertson into the midfield. By carrying out his assignment so well, our captain pretty much cut off the supply line from Liverpool’s left flank.
We still had to contend with the threat posed by Alexander-Arnold on the right, as well as attacks up the middle featuring Liverpool’s great trio of Salah, Mane, and Firmino. This, our defenders did brilliantly.
Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey were majestic. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who has experienced some awful Merseyside derbies, delivered three outstanding saves.
In fact, with the exception of Andre Gomes, who was replaced, every Everton starter was good-to-excellent in this match. In addition, Sigurdsson and Calvert-Lewin excelled as substitutes.
Looking at the match now, I can say that we caught Liverpool at the right time. This was the Shite’s fourth EPL defeat in a row, and also their fourth consecutive home loss. Before that streak began, Liverpool had been undefeated at Anfield for 68 matches.
Before the match, I looked at things differently. During the week, Liverpool defeated an outstanding German team — RB Leipzig — in the Champions League, and seemed to be due to get back on track in the EPL.
But now, Liverpool stands three points outside of the top four (and a Champions League spot). They are level on points with Everton, and we have a game in hand (against Southampton).
What we’ll do with that game is anyone’s guess. Recently, we played well in a draw with Manchester United, very well in a win over Tottenham, and fairly well in a loss to first-place Manchester City. On the other hand, we have lost at home to Fulham and Newcastle United — two of the bottom five teams — turning in miserable performances in the process.
But our crazy form is a worry for another day. This day is for celebrating.
Even Carlo Ancelloti managed a smile after the match. If the Italian seemed subdued, Duncan Ferguson, his Scottish assistant and an Everton legend, did not. He celebrated enough for the two of them and for all those Everton managers who failed to win at Anfield this century — David Moyes, Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce and Marco Silva.
As the song goes:
It’s a grand old team to play for,
It’s a grand old team to support. . . .
Today, it was even a grand old team to manage.