There's not a whole lot to say about what turned out to be one of the most comfortable Merseyside Derby victories in recent memory, as Liverpool absolutely dominated Everton from start to finish, pushing their lead to 3-0 before half-time and adding a fourth on 50 minutes to kill the match off. As was the case against Spurs at White Hart Lane, Liverpool proved they're plenty capable of taking points off their direct rivals in convincing fashion and did plenty to assuage concerns that had overwhelmed the buildup.
Liverpool 4: Gerrard 21'; Sturridge 33' 35'; Suarez 50'
There was little for Brendan Rodgers to do other than select the same side that faced Aston Villa last weekend bar a replacement for the injured Glen Johnson; Luis Alberto in the midfield has become a pipe dream, which left Rodgers with only Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson again. This time, however, the front four were far more flexible, and it proved to be the killing stroke, with Gerrard even deeper than usual and Philippe Coutinho joining Henderson in the midfield to go along with a fluid front three of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, and Raheem Sterling.
We expect the frenetic derby pace early on, and that's more or less what we got, though Liverpool were quick to assert themselves going forward and never really relented. It was a comprehensive, dominant display from the hosts once they found their footing, and they made good on the words of Roberto Martinez pre-match by getting their first from a set piece when Gerrard arrowed a header past Tim Howard from a Suarez corner in the 21st minute. It proved a double blow for the visitors, who found themselves down a goal and without Romelu Lukaku after the talented forward suffered ligament damage in his ankle while challenging Gerrard's header.
As it tends to be, the first goal was vital, and Liverpool pushed on from there, maintaining their place on top and eventually adding a second and third in quick succession through Sturridge. The first was vintage counter-attacking stuff, with Sterling knocking on to Coutinho, who broke forward and slipped a perfect through-ball for a streaking Sturridge to finish easily past a helpless Howard.
Liverpool's third came just two minutes later, and it was easily the goal of the match. Kolo Toure lumped a long ball forward, and with Sturridge smartly checking his run before bursting into space, it was between Sturridge and Howard for the bouncing clearance. The Englishman glanced at Howard before gathering himself, and his audacious lobbed effort found its way into the side netting on the far side to put Liverpool 3-0 up and in the clear.
Everton were much better to start the second half, with more pressure in the forward areas and a number of threatening attacking moves in the opening minutes. But against the run of play Liverpool went 4-0 to the good, as Luis Suarez latched onto a long clearance and a bit of luck as he outpaced Everton's defenders to finish the match off. From there the only notable moments were a missed penalty by Daniel Sturridge and Brendan Rodgers' decision to take his talented forward off after selfishly ignoring Suarez and Coutinho on the break, which led to a post-match apology by Sturridge and the only compelling moment in a second half that was otherwise devoid of drama.
There's not really any words to express how impressive Liverpool were in spite of the worries that marred the lead-in. Facing an opposition that appeared to have Rodgers' squad scouted to a tee, there was ultimately little question as to which manager had the upper hand, as the hosts were prepared to a man to hit their guests on the counter and utilize the adaptability throughout their front four that had been absent for much of the past month.
Much of the concern about Steven Gerrard in a deeper-lying role was based on how it affected the overall balance of the midfield, especially in defense, but the work-rate of the side as a whole--and Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling in particular--more than relieved any sort of worries. The captain was immense, vintage, terrific, immune from criticism, as he tends to be in these fixtures, but the setup by Rodgers was absolutely perfect, and the execution by his personnel was close to flawless.
Everton's attack was surely impacted by the unfortunate loss of Lukaku, but Liverpool's defense was as sturdy as it's been all season, aided by a more responsible Gerrard and willing tracking-back from anyone and everyone in the front six. Jon Flanagan was terrific in a derby yet again, Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure were solid in front of the impressive Simon Mignolet, Aly Cissokho was stable enough, while Jordan Henderson did all the unnoticed work from back to front. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge took turns on the left, with the latter dropping deep more often than not, while Sterling proved a constant threat on the break and Coutinho operated more effectively through the middle than he has in weeks.
In many ways it was a replication of the win at White Hart Lane--a statement of intent and top four credentials and all that, but more importantly a resounding victory in a match that had caused plenty of anxiety ahead of kickoff. Liverpool can do this sort of thing on any given day against any given opponent, full stop, and today's victory showed that it's not necessarily about individuals.
Their parts are damned impressive, but the whole isn't bad either, and if they can strike this type of chord throughout the rest of the season, there's every chance that they'll be around the top of the table come season's end.