Liverpool 0-2 Everton: A landmark win for Toffees to release Liverpool’s psychological hold


As Everton enjoyed a long-awaited victory on the turf of their great rivals Liverpool, manager Carlo Ancelotti beamed broadly and grabbed his players in bear hugs.

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Twenty-two years have passed since their last win at Anfield. In that period, Ancelotti has won the Champions League three times, the Fifa Club World Cup twice, and league titles in Italy, England, France and Germany.

There was no silverware on offer at Anfield on Saturday, but his reaction at the final whistle showed he knew just how big a cause for Everton celebration this was.

Anfield has been a graveyard for Everton ever since victory on that Monday night in 1999, a stadium where belief, confidence and ability drained away as the team bus drove through the gates – the lowest low arguably being last season’s FA Cup third-round exit against what was almost a Liverpool youth team.

Everton’s last win at Anfield was a 1-0 victory in September 1999

Now, after a 2-0 win that demonstrated steely resolve, organisation and a cutting edge when required, Everton’s Anfield nightmare is over. So too is their general derby despair – it was he first time they had beaten Liverpool anywhere since 2010. The release of the psychological hold Liverpool have had over them for the past decade will provide huge confidence and momentum moving forward.

Ten days before victory at Anfield, Ancelotti was portrayed as the coolest man in football when he celebrated Bernard’s winner in the epic 5-4 FA Cup fifth-round win over Tottenham by simply blowing on his cup of tea.

He was still the master of calm on derby day as Everton went serenely about their business until that final whistle, when he moved on to the Anfield turf to join joyous scenes.

Everton’s away form has been outstanding this season, with eight wins from their past 12 games on their travels, and it is only dreadful results at Goodison Park holding back from the top four.

Here, however, this was the Everton who have won at places like Tottenham, Leicester City, Wolves and Leeds this season, while also earning a point at Manchester United.

And now they can add the long-awaited win at Liverpool to that list of excellence.

James Rodriguez showed exactly why he was picked, with a slicing pass in behind Ozan Kabak for Richarlison to score after three minutes. After that, Everton carried out Ancelotti’s game plan to perfection.

Liverpool had possession, they had chances, but there was never a moment’s panic in Everton’s superbly marshalled defence. The reward of victory was ensured by Gylfi Sigurdsson’s late penalty after Trent Alexander-Arnold tangled with Everton substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin. It was contentious but Everton did not care – nor should they, having endured so much Anfield agony.

Everton had heroes throughout but there must be a namecheck for goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, criticised so often in the past and Liverpool’s villain after his challenge in October’s derby ended Virgil van Dijk’s season.

Pickford was faultless, producing a magnificent diving save from Jordan Henderson in the first half, then a perfectly timed plunge at the feet of Mohamed Salah in the second.

Michael Keane was a colossus in defence while Ben Godfrey, signed for £25m from Norwich City, has been a revelation. He has excelled right across the back four, was outstanding at Anfield and will surely be catching the attention of England manager Gareth Southgate.

Everton players celebrate their win at Anfield
Michael Keane (five) made 13 clearances against Liverpool

In midfield, the re-emergence of Tom Davies continues to be a standout element of Ancelotti’s Everton renaissance.

Davies had lost his way after a promising start to his Everton career. But Ancelotti’s sympathetic approach and faith in the midfielder has been rewarded with superb form in recent weeks. He was top class again here, showing energy, composure and willingness to get involved in the physical exchanges.

Everton achieved the win while keeping Calvert-Lewin and the influential Brazil midfielder Allan on the bench as they recover from hamstring injuries, although the striker and Sigurdsson made big contributions coming off the bench.

If Ancelotti can somehow find a cure for Everton’s poor home form, which has seen them lose to strugglers such as Newcastle United and Fulham, then there is a real chance they can be in serious top-four contention.

They are a formidable proposition away from home and the manner in which they closed out this win was compelling evidence.

Premier League table
The win means Everton are level on points with Liverpool but have a game in hand over their rivals

What was most impressive was the solidity and composure when faced with occasional periods of Liverpool pressure. In the past, there would have been an inevitability about a Liverpool breakthrough.

Not here.

“It means a lot to us all – we are starting to get a bunch of players in the dressing room who are not tied down with that baggage,” said captain Seamus Coleman, the only player who was at the club the last time the Toffees beat Liverpool.

“When you have a world-class manager in the dugout, you fully believe in these games.

“Once you are part of this club, you know the history about winning here. The mindset has to change and it is not to just be beating Liverpool but being successful in our own right.”

Ancelotti has made himself a hugely popular figure with Everton fans since his arrival on Merseyside, buying into the club and the community and talking the language their passionate supporters understand.

“We are really happy, really pleased,” said the manager. “After a long time, Everton are able to win at Anfield – it is a good gift for our supporters. The performance was good, we were focused, worked hard and when we had the opportunities, we were clinical.”

If he needed anything to cement his status, masterminding their first win at Anfield since September 1999 and their first Merseyside derby victory since October 2010 will more than do the job.

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