MATCH CENTRE

Everton Suffer Derby Defeat

Everton were condemned to defeat in the 239th Merseyside derby after conceding twice in each half at Goodison Park on Wednesday.

Demarai Gray scored the home team’s goal, streaking through to deposit his finish between the legs of Alisson seven minutes before half-time.

That made the score 2-1 after goals from Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah inside the opening 19 minutes.

Liverpool restored their two-goal advantage when Salah slid in his second of the game on 64 minutes. Diogo Jota lashed in to complete the scoring a quarter-hour later.

The moment that lit a fuse under this occasion arrived in minute 38 and was constructed by two players missing from Everton’s starting line-up at Brentford three days ago.

Richarlison played here in a two-man attack with Salomon Rondon, while Gray patrolled the left wing.

It spoke to the ingenuity and mobility of both players that neither was remotely close to their starting position in fashioning the goal that halved the damage towards the end of a breakneck opening half.

Richarlison found a lovely spot to receive a pass from Allan, the forward unattended between Liverpool’s defence and midfield.

Gray was similarly left to his own devices, running a line bisecting the visitors’ central defenders, to collect Richarlison’s pass, guided with the outside of his right boot.

One touch carried Gray closer to goal and Alisson, who raced out but was defeated by a shot directed through the Brazilian keeper’s legs.

We shouldn’t have been surprised by Gray’s quick-thinking and composure. He’s been integral to a number of Everton’s best moments this season, a canny purchase from Bayer Leverkusen with five direct goal contributions in 12 Premier League starts before this encounter.

Gray declared notice of his intent when having a go from distance but missing wide of Alisson’s left post after 13 minutes.

There was a cute trick to skip past Trent Alexander-Arnold 14 minutes later, the subsequent shot scudding into the head of Joel Matip

Liverpool, rating their chances of cantering to victory at 2-0, were unsettled by Gray’s intervention.

Thiago Alcantara was booked for barrelling into Allan, himself an earlier recipient of a rather unfortunate looking yellow card for a midfield challenge on Jota.

Everton finished the opening half with their blood up. Lucas Digne – another on the naughty step after a caution for tripping Henderson – served a ball into the middle. It was helped to the back post where Abdoulaye Doucoure gathered but had his goalbound effort repelled by the blocking Thiago.

Eight minutes had elapsed when the Jordan Pickford made his first excellent stop.

Sadio Mane was the architect for the visitors, dashing into space on the left to square for Salah, who took on the shot first time. Pickford was down in a flash to save at the base of his right post.

Senegalese Mane was involved again 60 seconds later, freeing Jota down the same left flank. The Portuguese drilled back a ball for the onrushing Henderson and, in this instance, Pickford didn’t stand a chance, the left-footed strike careering into the keeper’s right corner.

Andros Townsend felt aggrieved when referee Paul Tierney ignored his tumble on the 18-yard line following a neat passing interchange on 14 minutes – and was even more fed up with a caution after falling as he tried to accelerate past Andrew Robertson.

The home team’s first sniff of an opportunity came on six minutes. Gray raced onto Digne’s low ball to swing over a cross to the far post. Townsend was in space but got his angles all wrong, directing the header away from the danger zone.

Liverpool had begun with energy and menace. Fabinho was narrowly wide from Alexander-Arnold’s second-minute corner after Pickford and Coleman eventually combined to smother Mane’s darting run in behind.

Salah then karate kicked the ball over from very close to goal after meeting Jota’s cross on the full.

Jota, the central pillar in the away team’s front three, was making full capital on his licence to roam. He wriggled into the box on the right side before teeing up Alexander-Arnold, who produced a tremendous flying stop from Pickford.

Alexander-Arnold was busy at the other end on 18 minutes, getting in front of Gray to hack Richarlison’s low delivery over his own bar.

And within 60 seconds, Everton’s deficit stood at two. The goal was simple in its execution, Henderson sweeping the ball out to the right for the motoring Salah. He used his first touch to enter the penalty area and second to whip a vicious finish high beyond Pickford.

Pickford leapt to his right to palm out a dipping 26th-minute Mane attempt. The forward had another go soon after, heading goalwards when Henderson lifted in a cross from byline, Ben Godfrey helping out Pickford by heading clear.

Godfrey made a crucial interception four minutes after the restart. Alexander-Arnold drove forwards to feed Mane, whose momentary hesitation enabled the defender to fling himself in front of a strike that was travelling on target.

Rondon, having his best game for Everton and desperately disappointed when injury forced his exit around the hour, deployed wonderful control to rein in a ball dropping form the sky when he was still operating at full capacity.

The ball was worked through Richarlison to Gray, whose wicked inswinging centre was diverted over by Matip.

Salah and Thiago were both off target with long rangers and Richarlison whizzed a drive over the top after taking Gray’s long ball on his chest and trying to outfox Alisson by taking on the strike early.

Anthony Gordon, on for Rondon and taking the left-sided role vacated by Richarlison, who went through the centre, went over a leg injudiciously hung out by Robertson, the latest player to have his name taken by Tierney.

Townsend’s free-kick flipped over off the wall and from the resulting corner the away team restored their two-goal advantage.

Salah pounced on Seamus Coleman’s slip when the ball was cleared to halfway and sped forwards to roll his finish across Pickford and into the far corner.

The task for Everton had grown, then, but the cause didn’t feel irretrievable at this point. Rafa Benitez’s team were enjoying longer spells in the Liverpool half and, at 2-1, the visitors had intermittently given the impression of a team hanging on to its advantage.

And but for a Virgil Van Dijk interception on a Richarlison pass across the fringes of the penalty area, Gordon would have had a free hit at the target from 12 yards.

With 11 minutes remaining, however, Jota put the outcome beyond doubt, spinning eight yards out to rifle the ball into the roof of the net.

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