Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo scores first Reds goal in win over toothless Everton

Mohamed Salah and Cody Gakpo were on target as Liverpool beat Everton 2-0 for their first league victory in five games

It took a while, but once Liverpool realised there was nothing to fear from Everton they also remembered that a Merseyside derby at Anfield is an occasion to enjoy. And to torment their local rivals.

“Last trip to Anfield,” taunted the Kop as Jürgen Klopp’s team savoured a first Premier League win of 2023 at the expense of their relegation-threatened neighbours. Liverpool prospered on the counter-attack and from Everton clumsiness to secure a comfortable victory in the 242nd Merseyside derby.

All 208 league editions of the most-played derby in English football history have come in the top flight but whether there will be any more next season rests entirely on Sean Dyche’s ability to conjure a goalscoring threat out of his new charges.

Without the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton had none. They almost took the lead through a James Tarkowski header that struck a post 15 seconds before Mohamed Salah gave Liverpool the lead with Jordan Pickford going awol in his penalty area. From that moment on, Dyche’s visitors showed none of the energy, determination or resilience that underpinned his debut win over Arsenal.

Liverpool shook off their rust, recalled what it took to outplay limited opponents, and eased to a much-needed win ahead of Saturday’s visit to Newcastle after Cody Gakpo tapped home his first goal for the club shortly after the restart.

Gakpo’s improved understanding with Salah and Darwin Núñez, plus another mature midfield display from 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic, brought Klopp rich encouragement along with the 250th win of his Liverpool reign. He has reached the milestone in 414 games and quicker than the three previous managers to do so – Bob Paisley (448), Bill Shankly (472) and Tom Watson (539).

There was an urgency and clear intent to Liverpool’s performance from the off. It was not initially effective in breaking through Everton’s compact lines but represented a vast improvement on recent starts all the same. The defensive lapses that contributed to their heavy defeat at Wolves last time out were still evident early on, however, with Joel Matip completely missing an attempted clearance from Dwight McNeil’s header. Matip’s error gave Ellis Simms opportunity to take aim at Alisson’s goal but his attempt from 18 yards struck Joe Gomez and deflected harmlessly away.

Simms was handed his first Everton start since being recalled from a fruitful loan spell at Sunderland in January, with Calvert-Lewin sidelined by hamstring trouble. The 22-year-old’s physicality and aerial strength gave him the nod over Neal Maupay but his was a thankless shift, the centre-forward frequently isolated and having to pursue lost causes as Dyche’s team sat deep and invited Liverpool pressure.

It was an approach that enabled Liverpool’s fragile confidence to slowly recover. Salah drilled an inviting free-kick straight into an Everton wall after Tarkowski had needlessly felled Núñez just outside the area. Gakpo also headed a decent opportunity wide after Salah, Bajcetic and Núñez had combined to catch the visitors’ cold at a quickly taken throw from Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Mohamed Salah puts the ball past Jordan Pickford
Mohamed Salah puts the ball past Jordan Pickford, who left himself out of position as the ball came in. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

That was the sum total of the Liverpool threat until Everton almost reprised their winning goal against Arsenal. Alex Iwobi floated a corner to the far post where Tarkowski towered above the Liverpool defence and sent a header looping over Alisson. The defender’s effort kissed the inside of the far post and Liverpool managed to clear.

Merely 15 seconds later they were ahead. Núñez exchanged passes with Salah before embarking on a determined run down the left. Everton’s backline was nowhere to be seen as the Uruguay international clipped a cross over Vitalii Mykolenko, who was playing the Liverpool attack onside. Pickford completely misread the flight of the ball and there was Salah to convert into an unguarded net unopposed.

Remarkably, and reflecting Liverpool’s recent travails, Salah’s breakthrough was his first Premier League goal at Anfield since October and his team’s first league goal at any ground since 2 January.

Everton had to remain in the contest as long as possible to exploit any defensive vulnerability in the Liverpool ranks. Instead, they were two goals down and out of it four minutes after the restart. Liverpool’s second encapsulated both the hunger and the quality that underpinned their merited victory.

First, Bajcetic shut down Iwobi and dispossessed the Everton midfielder near the halfway line. Andy Robertson, making the 250th appearance of his Liverpool career, took over and tore through the wide open spaces granted by the visitors’ midfield.

The ball found Alexander-Arnold, who swept another delightful assist to the far post where Gakpo converted his first Liverpool goal from close range. A VAR check found the January signing had been just kept onside by Conor Coady and Everton had an insurmountable hurdle to climb.

Núñez and Salah had several chances to extend Liverpool’s advantage but, despite their misses and Everton substitute Tom Davies squandering a free header at the back post, there was no prospect of the hosts’ winless league run continuing. Klopp even dusted off his fist-pump celebrations in front of the Kop after the final whistle. Just like old times.


Andy Hunter at Anfield

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