In a season in which Jürgen Klopp’s electric side threaten to set records all over the pitch with a brand of exciting attacking football, yesterday’s sputtering victory over Everton managed to set a less-coveted mark.
“Form means nothing in a derby” the saying goes, but you can forgive those tuning in to the clash hyped as “Merseyside Monday” for expecting these two particular teams coming off of a run of positive results—Everton pulling out a thriller against title contenders, Arsenal, while Liverpool were banging three past a formerly-stout Middlesbrough defense—to put on an evenly-matched, but exciting show.
However, for their second straight Monday night clash, the Reds labored in a scrappy, physical win after battling to a bore 0-0 draw against José Mourinho’s hilariously negative Man Utd in their last appearance on Monday Night Football back in October.
Although, Liverpool’s Sadio Mané was able to cap off a strong second half showing by Klopp’s men to snatch the points with an injury time goal, the raucous Goodison Park crowd was silenced in the first period by some unsightly statistics:
0 - This is only the 2nd Premier League game in 2016-17 to see 0 shots on target in the 1st half (after Swansea v Sunderland). Blank #EVELIV— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 19, 2016
The Blues came out with with the intention to give their bitter rivals a taste of their own gegenpressing medicine, with the likes of James McCarthy leading the charge. The Liverpool midfield was hounded off the ball for much of the game with a tenacity Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp characterised as “wild” in his post-match interview.
Either way, the tactics worked as Ronald Koeman’s squad were able to stifle some of the Reds brighter stars for 93 minutes. Coming into the match on an impressive scoring run, Divock Origi, for example, was unable to make it six goals in six after an ineffective display. The Belgian was well-marshalled in both target man and wide roles, losing all of his aerial duels, failing to complete a single successful take on and not registering a single shot on target.
Roberto Firmino’s struggles also continued, cutting a frustrated and isolated figure even after switching with Origi back into his now-favoured false no. 9 role for much of the game.
However, the best sides only need one moment of quality and/or luck, and the Reds got at least one out of those two in the form of a Daniel Sturridge shot that Mané turned on the afterburners to beat everyone and poke home at the death.
The ever-present Lucas Leiva, who’s seen many a Merseyside derby in his time, summed it up best: