Liverpool moved back to within a point of Premier League leaders Manchester City following a hard-fought 2-0 win in a fiery Merseyside derby that further deepened Everton’s relegation fears.
Jurgen Klopp’s title-chasers were forced to be patient but eventually broke through the visitors’ rearguard action when Andy Robertson nodded in Mo Salah’s cross just past the hour.
Substitute Divock Origi, who had a hand in the opener, then notched his sixth goal in 10 outings against the Toffees to seal the points five minutes from time.
Everton had dropped into the bottom three ahead of kick off as a result of Burnley’s win over Wolves and they arrived with a game-plan to time-waste and frustrate the hosts with a well-drilled low block.
It appeared to work as Liverpool initially struggled to create much of note and failed to muster a shot on target in the first 45 minutes of a league match at Anfield for only the second time this season.
The lively Anthony Gordon had a penalty appeal waved away for the visitors early in the second period before Robertson’s breakthrough changed the complexion of the match and the hosts took control.
The result means Frank Lampard’s men sink to 18th spot, two points adrift of safety with six matches left.
Liverpool will now switch focus to the first leg of their Champions League semi final at home to Villarreal on Wednesday prior to a trip to in-form Newcastle next Saturday. Everton host Chelsea next Sunday.
Liverpool dig deep as Everton’s relegation fears grow. This wasn’t the champagne football that comfortably rolled over Manchester United in midweek. Liverpool needed to pull their sleeves up and brush aside plenty of frustration before finally overcoming a dogged Everton.
Klopp deserves real credit for the second half breakthrough. He turned to Origi and Luis Diaz and they both came off the bench to make a huge impact, once again showcasing the attacking talent the Reds boss has at his disposal this term. It could be one last chapter in Origi’s Liverpool career that underlines why he has such cult status. The Belgium international seems set to leave Anfield in the summer and has been used sparingly all season, but he has a habit of netting against the Blues and his record surely played a part in his manager’s thinking. Within moments of his arrival he had combined with Salah to tee up the opening goal before chipping in with a late clincher to keep the quadruple dream very much alive.
As for Everton, Lampard may well point to a melee late in the first half where Sadio Mane was perhaps fortunate to pick up just a caution and then a penalty appeal that was turned down after the interval. He will be pleased with his side’s spirited application but there’s no denying the Blues’ predicament is now precarious. They are two points off 17th-placed Burnley, and although the Toffees have a game in hand, they have a difficult run-in with many a sleepless night no doubt ahead for Lampard and Co as they bid to retain their top-flight status.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Andy Robertson (Liverpool). The full back was one of the first Liverpool players to demonstrate much-needed urgency in the second period and then chipped in with a rare, but hugely significant goal. The Scot also produced a vital clearance inside his own six-yard box to make key contributions at both ends.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson 7, Alexander-Arnold 6, Matip 7, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 8, Fabinho 7, Thiago 6, Keita 6, Salah 7, Mane 6, Jota 6. Subs: Origi 8, Diaz 8, Henderson n/a.
EVERTON: Pickford 6, Coleman 7, Holgate 7, Keane 7, Mykolenko 7, Doucoure 7, Iwobi 7, Allan 6, Gordon 8, Richarlison 6, Gray 6. Subs: Alli 6, Rondon 6.
22’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Mane bamboozles Allan with a lovely first touch before rifling a 25-yard shot just past Pickford’s left-hand post.
31’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Robertson marauds down the left and cuts a low cross towards Jota who flashes a first-time shot wide of the near post.
54’ – EVERTON PENALTY APPEAL. Gordon drives into the left side of the Liverpool area and goes down as Matip moves an arm across him. The referee takes a long look but opts against awarding a spot kick. Liverpool may well have been let off the hook there.
62’ – GOAL! – Liverpool 1-0 Everton. The deadlock is broken! Robertson ghosts in at the far post to nod beyond Pickford after Salah had combined well with Origi.
66’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Matip’s header is cleared off the line with Salah volleying the follow-up over the bar.
85’ – GOAL! – Liverpool 2-0 Everton. Origi gets another late goal in a derby. That will surely seal the points as the Belgian nods home Diaz’s miscued acrobatic volley from close range.