Liverpool provide Merseyside magic

Posted by Kristian Walsh

On a night like this, a night where Liverpool beat Everton 4-0, it is probably worth letting the Kop -- transformed into a carnivorous gorge of hedonism -- describe 90 minutes of Merseyside madness: Liverpool are magic.

- Tyler: Three things: Liverpool vs. Everton
- Bennett: Liverpool strike at Everton heart
- Report: Liverpool 4-0 Everton

They sung it loud, and sung it proud. The wand was waved early and what followed was poetry in motion (another ditty by the songsters), especially in the first half. The whole of Anfield spent the first half in a state of delirium and disbelief. In this generation's long, storied history of the derby, rarely has a team been so dominant. Everton edged the first five minutes, but what followed was something barely believable from the home side. Even in a season when most who enter Anfield fall, and wilt under the attacking verve of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and others, this was beyond any rationale.

Steven Gerrard thundered his header home. Elation. Daniel Sturridge ran through from a magnificent Philippe Coutinho through ball. Relief. Sturridge then lobbed the onrushing Tim Howard, 40,000 people moving their heads up and then down as it dropped into the net. Laughter.

This was surgical from Liverpool, a dissection of 11 professional footballers, done so very clinically. After a month of performances that have struggled to reach the level of previous games, they returned to what they do best. Raheem Sterling received the ball and troubled Leighton Baines; on the other side, Suarez and Sturridge took turns to leave John Stones in a stupor. Any disagreements between the duo should not have been about who did and did not pass to each other, but rather who was to pick up the ball and run at the youngster.

The swagger of Liverpool was frightening at times. The build-up to the game had focused on how this was to be the game Everton broke their 15-year drought at Anfield, released by the shackles of David Moyes and liberated by Roberto Martinez. But Liverpool approached the game with the same confidence they have against the lesser sides. It did not matter that this was a derby, nor that Everton were just a point behind them in sixth; this was Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers.

There is much credit to be given to Liverpool, and Rodgers deserves a fair portion. Here, he showed that he deserves to prowl the touchline; this may have become the night he was truly accepted as Liverpool manager, as he stood, rain falling relentlessly, and orchestrated an unforgettable win for Liverpool. This was meant to be the unforgettable night for Martinez, but Liverpool stopped Everton from doing anything like that.

There has been worry, and rightly so, about how his 4-4-2 -- at times a 4-2-4 -- plays. The defence has been left exposed and the midfield has been outnumbered. But against Everton, Gerrard and Jordan Henderson dropped back to make a six-man defence; Aly Cissokho and Jon Flanagan joined the midfield to comprise of four men; Coutinho, Sterling and Suarez combined better than they ever have.

Everton had little answer. They played football and looked to retain possession, but the pressing of Liverpool was fantastic, energised by a night under the floodlights. Everton and Martinez were open and enterprising, and such a set-up may have troubled other Liverpool sides, but this Liverpool side were set up to counter them. Rodgers provided a brilliant performance, as brilliant as anybody on the pitch.

This was a game to make careers. Even with Sturridge missing a penalty for his hat-trick, he did something he never has before: Impacted upon an important game, a game between rivals, in such a devastating way. His disappointment at being substituted was a natural reaction of a player who wanted to be etched into stone, to join Gerrard and Ian Rush as players who have scored three in the derby. Little did he know, his two goals had already seen his name with them.

So it went for many of the Liverpool side. Players who had to cement their status -- Suarez, Sterling, Coutinho, and players with a point to prove -- the defensive-minded Gerrard, Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel, Cissokho --- did it. Suarez's goal, the goal to end any doubt, showed what everybody already knew, that he is a player of brilliant talent.

Though Everton's approach to the game was noble, they created problems for themselves. They lacked a fully-fit Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar, and also missed Sylvain Distin altogether. Liverpool targeted their weaknesses well: the lack of pace in Antolin Alcaraz and Phil Jagielka, as well as the inexperience of Stones. In midfield, it was a shoot-out between Henderson and Gerrard, and Gareth Barry and James McCarthy. The former won this duel.

The most pleasing thing for Rodgers will be how this did not feel like a derby match. The tackles were never too furious, the control of the game never too far away. This was a considered, meticulous showing. This was victory against Everton, yes -- but it was also a win against an impressive side, one who is sixth on merit with their excellent football. They now sit four points ahead of them and three ahead of Spurs, albeit the London club have a game in hand against Manchester City. Even as objects flew at Suarez in the first half as he trotted towards the corner, he largely ignored, and whipped in a fantastic ball for the opener.

As the game edged towards the end, the result long out of doubt, Everton's support stayed loyal. This was not a Moyes derby performance, and that is both good and bad. They know they will have other chances. But this was Liverpool's night, Sturridge's night, and Rodgers' night. Liverpool are magic, the Kop sang. More magic of this nature will see Champions League football to accompany bragging rights over the next few months.


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