Michael Keane hailed Jordan Pickford as “one of the most mentally strong players I know”, insisting the England No.1’s resilience will ensure he bounces straight back from the bad luck he suffered against Liverpool.
The centre-back added Everton’s positive display at Anfield demonstrates the team’s increasing belief under boss Marco Silva.
Everton were the more progressive side for significant spells and were twice a matter of inches from taking the lead in a frenetic first half on Sunday.
First, Yerry Mina headed agonisingly wide from Lucas Digne’s free-kick before Andre Gomes saw an effort cleared off the line by Reds defender Joe Gomez.
The home side got into threatening positions, too, but found the in-form Everton backline – marshalled by the superb Keane - a tough nut to crack.
When they did find a way through, Pickford was there to stand tall and make an excellent stop from Xherdan Shaqiri.
As the second half progressed, Silva’s side further stamped their authority on proceedings, circulating possession with speed, precision and attacking intent.
For the all the Blues’ impressive work, though, they were undone as Liverpool benefited from a huge stroke of fortune in added time. Virgil Van Dijk’s mis-hit shot skewed high up in the air and, after the flight of the ball deceived Pickford, the Dutchman's effort rebounded off the bar leaving substitute Divock Origi with a simple finish.
Defender Keane says there is no danger of the goal having a lasting effect on the Everton keeper, as he emphasised the 24-year-old’s exceptional ability and strong character.
“We feel for Jordan, he’s been absolutely brilliant for us and he’s got a bit of bad luck there,” said Keane. “He’ll be fine. He is one of the mentally strongest players I know.
“I’m just gutted for everyone in the changing room and the fans, as well.
“It’s difficult to take. I thought we played really well throughout the match. We caused them problems and we were solid at the back.
“I think we could have scored a couple of goals – they had chances, too, and Jordan made some great saves.
“We tried to get on the ball, keep possession and create chances and we did – in the first half we had a few. We played well enough to win the game but we need to start being more ruthless at these places.
“Obviously, they were going to have some pressure. They’re at home, they’re a top team, so we knew we would have to soak that up at the right times and I thought we did that very well.”
🗣 | Marco is just as gutted as the rest of us after that, but he rightly praises the performance of our boys. They deserved more.— Everton (@Everton) December 2, 2018
After the heartbreak eases, there's plenty to be positive about. Onwards, Evertonians.💙 #EFC pic.twitter.com/yvqDvZovdF
Keane insists Everton’s enterprising performance at Anfield highlights the quality in the squad's ranks, as well as the positive steps boss Silva has taken in implementing his ambitious philosophy.
The Blues came into the match having won five of their previous seven Premier League matches – a run of form which has seen them rise to sixth in the table.
Everton's focus will now turn to Wednesday night’s clash with Newcastle United at Goodison Park, when the Toffees will attempt to rack up a fifth home victory on the spin.
England defender Keane stressed the team’s resolve to hit back immediately against Rafael Benitez’s Magpies.
“I think we’ve proved we’re capable of matching any team on our day, home or away,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of top-quality players who can cause anyone problems.
“We went toe-to-toe with Liverpool as we have in every away game against a top side we’ve had this season. If we keep playing like that - showing the belief in our play and enjoying our football at these places - then we’ll get a win soon [at a top side's ground].
“We’ve got another game on Wednesday. We’ve got to get put this behind us now, learn from it and make sure we’re ready to get the win.”