The hope for the Premier League title was gone long ago and what required was maintaining the consistency for the remaining part of the season which has been a nightmare. You always get that unusual feeling of the wheels have completed their circle when the fortress is breached. Since that astonishing record at Anfield was broken, there was a sign of Liverpool entering the period of transition and the men of the golden generation have reached their peak and now started to show signs of decay.
— Carlo Ancelotti (@MrAncelotti) February 20, 2021
Of course, Liverpool have been badly hit by injuries but in this season, no teams have been free from this curse and as they say, this season has been all about finding a way to get going. The likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid are showing how to move on. Sadly, the Reds are down morally and the spark is missing.
The nightmare season for Liverpool reached a new low as they slid to their first defeat to local rivals Everton in more than a decade and their first derby defeat at Anfield since October 1999.
Everton have now scored as many Premier League goals at Anfield this year as Liverpool.
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) February 20, 2021
Richarlison’s early goal, followed by Gylfi Sigurdsson’s late penalty, did the damage for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, who move level on points with their neighbours – with a game in hand – courtesy of a 2-0 win.
For Liverpool, it was a fourth straight home league defeat – the first time that has happened since 1923. Having initially sought to defend the title they won so spectacularly last season, they can now see their hopes of even a top-four finish dwindling. With just 13 league games remaining, they are in dire straits.
🔵 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐎𝐑𝐈𝐆𝐈𝐍𝐀𝐋𝐒. 𝐄𝐒𝐓.𝟏𝟖𝟕𝟖. 🔵 pic.twitter.com/Nd8oy8T4op
— Everton (@Everton) February 20, 2021
Their misery was compounded here by yet another injury, and yet more defensive disruption, with Jordan Henderson forced off just half an hour in. That’s all three of their most experienced center-backs sidelined now, as well as the two midfielders who were moved back to replace them.
It meant that Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips became the 18th different center-back pairing to play for Klopp this season, and the 14th in 25 Premier League matches.
Well done lads @Everton ! The town is Blue 💙💙
— Idrissa Gana Gueye (@IGanaGueye) February 20, 2021
Still, the critics would not wish to give excuses for the defeat, nor were their complaints over the penalty decision that enabled Sigurdsson to double Everton’s advantage. The Toffees, for once, were calm and measured in executing their game plan. Liverpool were handled with relative ease and, when they did threaten, Pickford repelled everything.
Revenge appeared to be on Liverpool’s minds when Andy Robertson caught James Rodriguez long after the ball had gone but the windy condition and an unconvincing start to Kabak’s home debut were more telling factors. Kabak needlessly conceded an early corner in the wind, which sailed just wide off Ben Godfrey’s midriff from Lucas Digne’s delivery.
A weak header from Thiago Alcantara followed by a misdirected header from Kabak – both to Doucoure – gifted Everton possession and enabled Rodriguez to script a superb pass into Richarlison’s run behind the Turkey international.
Strike first. Strike hard. No Mersey. 🥋👊
— Everton (@Everton) February 20, 2021
Richarlison took the ball in his stride before beating Alisson with a perfectly placed low drive into the far corner.
The Brazilian’s fourth goal in four games, after two in the previous 16, was the ideal start for a team needing to overcome its mental block at Anfield and for a visiting side set up with a five-man defence by Ancelotti.
Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession thereafter but created few clear-cut chances to draw level before the interval. The central defensive trio of Mason Holgate, Michael Keane, and Godfrey absorbed pressure comfortably and rarely allowed Liverpool’s front three space to cause problems.
Thiago since signing for Liverpool:
425 thumbs up
Anfield DJ 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/KpF18ynlJ5
— Folarinne of Netherlands🇱🇺🇱🇺 (@BlackFola1) February 21, 2021
Just before half-time, the threat from Liverpool came from Henderson, who steered a volley towards the far corner only for Pickford to produce a superb save and tip around the post. Trent Alexander-Arnold was also denied from distance by the England goalkeeper.
Henderson then left due to injury and Liverpool lacked the leadership to stabilize the situation, whereas, their lack of cutting edge was evident throughout the night – their passing was slow, the control over the ball lacked authority while the finishing in front of goal devoid of composure.
Coleman should have extended Everton’s lead when Digne delivered a deep cross into the heart of the Liverpool area. Everton’s captain threw himself into a diving header but his close-range effort was straight at Alisson.
Historic victory for Everton
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) February 20, 2021
Pickford was the man in the spotlight and a man on a mission. When Mohamed Salah had his first sight of goal, played in behind Keane by substitute Xherdan Shaqiri, the goalkeeper charged off his line to save with his chest and pounced on the rebound before Shaqiri could connect.
With Liverpool still searching for the way to escape the defeat, Richarlison spun away from Phillips and found substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin inside the area – he took his shot first time, Alisson saved brilliantly low to his left, but as he closed in on the follow-up Calvert-Lewin was impeded by Alexander-Arnold.
🇮🇹 Carlo Ancelotti has now managed 5 different clubs to victory against Liverpool
2007 AC Milan
2009 & 2010 Chelsea
2014 (x2) Real Madrid
2018 & 2019 Napoli
2021 Everton pic.twitter.com/7699FaIJzo
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 20, 2021
The referee, Chris Kavanagh, had no hesitation in pointing to the spot or confirming his decision after being asked to check the pitch-side monitor by VAR.
Sigurdsson buried Liverpool’s last hope of a bounce back from the penalty spot.
Ecstasy for Carlo Ancelotti, while Klopp was left pondering what options are left to end the season with respect.