Liverpool – Everton: Jordan Pickford’s last-minute blunder gifts Liverpool derby victory (1-0)
Divock Origi scored a dramatic 96th minute winner for the home side as Jürgen Klopp’s men managed to keep pace with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table. Everton’s brave approach caused Liverpool more problems than in previous years, but it also resulted in Liverpool accumulating chances of their own.
Tactical analysis by Josh Williams.
Ahead of the match, Liverpool knew that anything less than a win would result in lost ground to Manchester City in the race to be champions, given their 3-1 victory over Bournemouth. Everton had the opportunity to damage the title hopes of their arch rivals by inflicting their first defeat of the season, as well as gaining a three-point advantage over Manchester United, who had only managed a draw against Crystal Palace.
Both sides approached the match in strong form, Liverpool still being unbeaten in the Premier League, and Everton winning five of their last seven games, resulting in a climb to sixth position. Klopp will have demanded his side show a reaction after losing midweek to PSG in Europe, whilst Marco Silva had to somehow overcome Everton’s eighteen match winless run at Anfield.
Klopp made three changes to his side compared to their previous away trip to Paris, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri displacing Dejan Lovren, Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Liverpool switched back to a 4-2-3-1 formation after utilizing the more prominent 4-3-3 shape midweek, with Mohamed Salah as the central striker, Roberto Firmino in the hole, and Shaqiri on the right.
Marco Silva kept faith in the team that picked up a win against Cardiff, and a draw away to Chelsea, as he named an unchanged side. This meant that Richarlison remained in his role as the team’s central striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Everton then assuming a 4-4-2 defensive shape when Liverpool engaged in build-up.
Problems for Brave Everton
In previous years, Everton have taken an inferior role when playing at Anfield, with largely defensive displays and an unwillingness to build attacking moves from the back. Instead, Everton’s approach when in possession has commonly been to play direct, to avoid pressing moments and to utilize physical strikers, set pieces and aerial prowess.
However, in the early stages of the match, it was evident that Silva had employed a different strategy, encouraging his team to play proactively and with confidence as often as possible, instead of aimlessly clearing the ball from danger. Everton tried to benefit from the relative press-resistance and composure of their attackers. Players such as André Gomes, Bernard and Gylfi Sigurdsson often progressed the ball impressively throughout the match, despite pressure.
Inside the first twenty minutes of play though, Everton’s brave approach could perhaps have been perceived as naïve, as it largely played into Liverpool’s hands. Under Klopp, Liverpool are renowned for their pressing, and Everton’s efforts to progress play from the back often resulted in the ball being lost before they escaped their own half. Once regaining the ball in these instances, Liverpool quickly penetrated Everton’s immediate vulnerable shape, and Sadio Mané had two fairly clear chances to score in the 11th and 12th minute.
Situation before Mané’s chance on the 11th minute, as Gomes dropped in to help progress the ball, but was dispossessed by Wijnaldum high up the field.
Liverpool’s Early Pressing Dwindles
A lot of the early inroads the home side made in the match came as a result of Everton’s insistence on playing out from the back, and Liverpool’s high pressing combated that. Due to the nature of the occasion, Liverpool had an initial bounce in energy, whilst Everton had to shake off an understandable nervousness.
Each goal kick taken by Pickford inside the first twenty minutes was passed short to one of his center-backs, and Liverpool pressed high which forced Everton into making errors. Despite Liverpool creating chances to score during this period, they wasted the opportunities to gain the lead. Once Everton advanced beyond their shaky start, Pickford and Everton’s defense began hitting long more often, and Liverpool’s press reduced somewhat into more of a mid-press as opposed to high.
This change resulted in Everton gaining more of a foothold in the match, as they were no longer making mistakes in their own defensive third. If you divide the pitch in three horizontal zones, the defensive third is the area closest to a team’s own goal.The ball was now spending more time in the central areas of the pitch, and Everton’s deeper players were not having to cope with as much pressure.
The fact Liverpool retreated into a medium block, A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half. led to a more neutral game, with less chances created. The only big chance to score for Liverpool in this match was when Fabinho won the ball in midfield and quickly played it to Salah, who then played in Shaqiri. His close-range shot was saved by Pickford. Everton gradually grew in confidence up until half-time, having been allowed that extra inch to breathe in their own half.
Liverpool’s build-up issues
In the second half, Liverpool only sporadically created chances. A lot of Liverpool’s possession was wasteful, with the ball being regularly hoofed into the channels after being played sideways amongst the defenders for short sequences. If this was not the chosen approach, the alternate would be an illogical cross into the box from fullbacks Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. Such a means of attacking makes little sense for Liverpool when considering the aerial prowess of the opposing central defenders back, in Yerry Mina and Michael Keane.
This method of progressing the ball forward is a regular trait at Liverpool, and it is perhaps adopted due to their strength in winning second balls and counterpressing. If the lofted passes or crosses are won by the opposing team, there is still a chance that the ball will eventually land at the feet of one of the desired players in red, and if that happens, the player involved should be in the final third and thus close to goal.
Despite that logic, the method can often appear hopeful rather than reliable, and against this particular opponent it certainly did not work. Everton’s counterattacking threat was largely negated in the second half – after having some success in the first – and gradually as the match progressed, Silva and his team appeared satisfied with a goalless draw. Steadily, Everton began to see out the match having developed an understanding of how to hold off Liverpool’s poor and direct offense.
A Moment of Total Madness
In the 96th minute, despite all of Everton’s endeavours and Liverpool’s frustrations, a calamitous moment changed the result of the match. A high diagonal cross from Alexander-Arnold was headed clear by Mina to Virgil van Dijk on the edge of the box, who mishit a volley towards goal into the sky. However, the shot fell from an awkward angle for the Everton goalkeeper. Instead of merely tipping the ball over for a corner kick, Pickford tried to catch it despite the woodwork obstructing him. Pickford failed disastrously in his attempt, and the ball bounced off the crossbar onto the head of second-half substitute Divock Origi.
For all the tactical and strategic aspects of a football match, sometimes one simple individual mistake can be the decisive factor, and that was certainly the case here.
Overall, Liverpool did create enough to win the match, and the underlying numbers support that. Everton’s brave approach was admirable, and Marco Silva’s side contributed to arguably one of the most competitive Merseyside derbies in the past decade. The overall quality of the match was bang average, though, as both sides were wasteful when presented with goalscoring opportunities. Although a draw would have been fair based on performance levels, the result was eventually decided in the last seconds by an embarrassing goalkeeping mistake.