Premier LeagueMatch report

Salah and Gakpo on target as Liverpool beat Everton in Merseyside derby

Hosts win first Premier League game of the year – as January signing grabs maiden goal for the club

Liverpool 2 Everton 0

It took a while for Liverpool to realise there was nothing to be feared from Everton and to remember that a Merseyside derby at Anfield is an occasion for them to enjoy. But savour it they did once Mohamed Salah converted past an AWOL Jordan Pickford to send Jürgen Klopp’s team towards a comfortable first Premier League win of 2023 at the expense of their relegation-threatened rivals.

“Last trip to Anfield,’ taunted the Kop of their local rivals after Salah’s first-half opener and Cody Gakpo’s first goal since his £35m arrival from PSV Eindhoven brought Liverpool a comfortable victory in the 242nd Merseyside derby.

All 208 league editions of the most-played derby in English football 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 Everton.


Without the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin the visitors had none, as has been the case for the majority of the season, and Liverpool were able to shake off their recent rust, recall what it took to outplay limited opposition, and ease to a necessary three points in their bid to revive aspirations of qualifying for the Champions League.

There was an urgency and clear intent to Liverpool’s performance from the off. It was not highly effective in breaking through Everton’s compact lines but represented a vast improvement in recent starts by Klopp’s team 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 an opportunity to take aim at Alisson’s goal but his attempt from 18 yards struck Joe Gomez and deflected 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.

Jordan Henderson, recalled alongside Fabinho with Thiago Alcântara nursing a hip injury and Naby Keïta dropping to the bench, helped inject greater intensity into Liverpool’s play and accuracy in their passing.

Darwin Núñez, stationed to the left with Gakpo operating in the centre, was also prominent in Liverpool’s brightest moments. Yet Klopp’s team had barely tested Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal until a rare foray forward by the visitors left them hopelessly exposed.

Salah drilled an inviting free-kick straight into an Everton wall after James Tarkowski had needlessly felled Núñez just outside the penalty area. Gakpo also headed a decent opportunity wide after Salah, Stefan Bajcetic and Núñez had combined to catch the visitors cold at a quickly taken throw-in from Trent Alexander-Arnold. That was the sum total of the Liverpool threat until Everton almost reprised their winning goal against Arsenal in Dyche’s debut last weekend.

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 rebounded to Simms, who fed McNeil for a close range shot that Liverpool managed to clear.

Merely 15 seconds later they were ahead. Núñez exchanged passes with Salah deep inside his own half 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 misread the flight of the ball completely 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 January 2nd.

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 effectively 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 cushion but, despite the misses and Everton substitute Tom Davies squandering a free header at the back post from an Iwobi cross, there was never any prospect of the hosts’ winless league run continuing. – Guardian