The brilliance of Mohamed Salah sweeps Liverpool ahead of Everton in the derby

The brilliance of Mohamed Salah sweeps Liverpool ahead of Everton in the derby

It was everything Everton feared and Liverpool wanted when they returned to the stadium where the fault lines first appeared in the title defense last season. Jürgen Klopp called on his players to be “really aggressive football-style”, not obsessed with revenge, and their vast superiority shone through an outright defeat of the sorry side of Rafael Benítez.

Liverpool outclassed their local rivals in all departments. The exceptional quality of goals from Jordan Henderson, twice Mohamed Salah, and Diogo Jota lived up to the overall performance and extended Liverpool’s record of scoring twice or more in an 18th consecutive game.

Everton, on the other hand, are a mess on and off the pitch. Their heaviest home derby loss in 39 years, an error-ridden display and eight games without a win naturally turns the spotlight and pressure on Benítez. “Rafa is behind the wheel,” sang Liverpool fans of their former manager who won the Champions League in the finals.

But the response from those Evertonians who stayed at the final whistle was revealing. Chants of “Sack the Board” came from the Gwladys Street side as President Bill Kenwright and Director of Football Marcel Brands came under heavy criticism from fans on all sides of the directors’ gallery. Farhad Moshiri, the majority shareholder who ultimately makes the decisions that turned the team into a costly embarrassment, was nowhere to be found.

Liverpool fans began chanting Benítez’s name ahead of kick-off as they prepared to revel in the continued misery of their rivals. Their optimism was, unsurprisingly, well placed. Klopp’s side swept the holes in Everton’s midfield with ridiculous ease. By the time Henderson wrapped up the visitors with nine minutes it could have been the fourth in an embryonic game for Liverpool.

Liverpool’s first clear opportunity came in the opening seconds after a communication glitch between Seamus Coleman and Jordan Pickford gave Trent Alexander-Arnold the first corner. Joel Matip was not scored by an Everton side who struggled with Benítez’s zone scoring instructions all season, but led a free header wide.

Salah, of all the people, wasted a better opportunity when Andros Townsend’s loose pass freed Jota for signing. Jota’s cross found the Premier League’s top scorer in front of goal but, opting for an awkward volley instead of a tilted header, Salah skied. He forced a nice Pickford save moments later with a first shot from the center from Sadio Mane as Liverpool continued to thrive from overloads to their left.

Jordan Henderson of Liverpool celebrates after opening the scoring against Everton. Photograph: Jon Super / AP

Eventually, inevitably, Liverpool found the finishing touches. And with style. Despite the obvious superiority of all visitors, they were regularly aided by careless distribution from their hosts. The first game came after Demarai Gray broke free and slipped a pass between Richarlison’s Everton two-way attack and Salomon Rondon, straight to Andy Robertson. The Liverpool full-back leapt up, exchanging passes with Mane and shooting a low cross from the left towards the incoming Henderson, who opened his body to sweep a delicious shot past Pickford’s right hand. His thrilling celebrations outside the end of Gwladys Street prompted an idiot to throw a plastic bottle at the Liverpool crowd. It missed.

Liverpool’s second stems from another lightning strike after Everton lost possession, this time from Ben Godfrey in central midfielder. The immaculate Henderson threaded a superb ball around Lucas Digne and into the path of Salah, who advanced on Pickford from the right and drugged a daring shot at the England keeper from a tight angle.

Everton’s worst derby fears came true. Townsend and Gray were booked for diving, while Allan, Digne and Thiago all received stern yellow cards from referee Paul Tierney. Fans’ anger at the club’s mismanagement was summed up by a banner that appeared as Liverpool dominated. “Nil satis nisi optimum,” he said, the club’s Latin motto that nothing but the best is good enough. Still, Goodison suddenly had hope when Gray brought Benítez’s team back into the contest. Richarlison created the goal with a neat turn from Allan’s pass and a piercing ball through the heart of the Liverpool defense. Gray came through and tightened his finish under Alisson’s advance.

Everton managed to fill in the loopholes Liverpool had exploited in the early stages, at least for a while, but undermined the hint of recovery with a catalog of mistakes that gave the title contenders their third.

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Townsend first played a bad corner at the near post where Robertson cleared a header. Gray then put Coleman under pressure with a high, awkward pass that Everton’s captain poorly controlled on his way to Salah. There was still a lot to do for the Egypt international as he sprinted from the center circle, but he held off Coleman before achieving a cool, clinical finish beyond Pickford’s advance.

When Jota shot the fourth into the roof of Everton’s net, after scooping Robertson’s ball into the box and turning Allan’s lazy challenge, that was the signal for many home fans to head for the exits. and the name of Benítez again chanted. By the Liverpool section, of course.


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