05 January 2018

Liverpool 2-1 Everton

Milner 35' [pen]
Sigurðsson 67'
van Dijk 84'

Imagine scoring the winner on your debut. You're the new club-record signing, the largest transfer fee for a defender in history. It's a debut none of us thought you'd make, having joined the club four days ago and having not played since early December. And you score in the 84th minute. In front of the Kop. Against the most hated of rivals, who'd somehow managed to equalize barely 15 minutes earlier.

Good lord. I'm getting endorphin-overload just thinking about it.

This is, was, and will forever be the Virgil van Dijk Derby. The narrative is overwhelming and incredible and I love it to death.

So, yeah, it wasn't a great match. It was actually very, very Merseyside Derby, and not the derby we saw last month. Or the romps we saw in Klopp's first two derbies.

It was scrappy. It was ugly. Passes and touches didn't come off, neither side consistently threatened, although Liverpool unsurprisingly had more shots and more possession. Mané and Oxlade-Chamberlain weren't as effective as when on opposite flanks last match; Lallana looked like a player who had missed the last few months; Milner perpetually looks a man running through molasses. But this also wasn't "defend as deep as you can and deny space as much as physically possible." Everton actually attacked, mainly because Yannick Bolasie was available this time, and also a draw's not helpful to Everton this time either. And two Everton players probably should have been sent off, because of course they should have been.

Two highlights to the first half. Liverpool won a penalty almost but not quite as soft as Calvert-Lewin's last month, with Lallana going down in the general vicinity of Holgate, with Milner converting from the spot. And then Mason Holgate's insane push on a full-speed Firmino trying to slow down before crashing into the advertising boards, which sent him over said advertising boards. You rarely see anything more dangerous in football. Firmino jumped out of the stands, rightfully furious, screamed something that the Internet's Lip Reading Community has decided was "are you crazy, you son of a whore?!" in Portuguese, and we got one of those famous everyone shoves around and are we fighting no no we are not fighting. Oh, and Holgate also grabs the referee; you know, what Cristiano got a seven-match ban for earlier this season.

Mason Holgate was not even booked. Um, okay.

So, second half. Which becomes uncomfortably familiar. Liverpool are on top. Liverpool, now 1-0, are getting more chances. Better chances. Gomez misses a back-post header. Lallana shoots wide from the top of the box when put through by Oxlade-Chamberlain. Robertson has a blast saved at the near post. Van Dijk heads a corner straight at Pickford.

Shit, they're gonna score now, aren't they?


Liverpool corner, Everton counter. Lookman runs at a retreating Robertson with only Milner as cover, with Lallana and van Dijk trying in vain to get back. He finds Jagielka which – that derby a few years ago notwithstanding – fine shoot please shoot no don't lay it off to Sigurðsson. He's open. Lallana and van Dijk have retreated too far. And he's really accurate in those positions.

And dammit, not again.

But no, not again. Did you not learn anything from the last week?

For some reason, it's different now. Liverpool get late goals now. Liverpool get late winners now.

2-1 v Leicester, despite going behind in the third minute, with Liverpool's winner in the 76th minute. 2-1 at Burnley, despite conceding an equalizer in the 88th minute, with Liverpool's winner in the 94th minute. And now, 2-1 v Everton, despite what happened late month, with Liverpool's winner in 84th minute. A set play winner, for the second match in a row. A winner from Liverpool's new record signing, on his debut.

Sure, maybe it's variance. Swings and roundabouts. Three consecutive 2-1 wins, three consecutive late winners, after going so long without.

But maybe the team needed to prove to themselves that they're capable of it. Maybe they're finding, they've found, that resilience we've been begging for. Maybe this isn't the same side, same squad which stuttered and stumbled in September. Maybe this winter won't be last winter.

And, also, Virgil van Dijk. Wow. What a start.

1 comment :

Dan Cherry said...

Great write-up as always.

Of course it’s natural for us all to have a Sky Is Falling mentality with Coutinho on his way out. But I’ve got to think looking at it objectively, we’re undoubtedly a better, more balanced team swapping Coutinho for Van Dijk, even if less watchable, less exciting going forward and less attack minded. Any replacement (or #6) we get this window is only an added bonus. Am I wrong to think that?