Liverpool 4 Origi 43', Sakho 45+2', Sturridge 60', Coutinho 76'
Despite cliches of form going out the window in local derbies, it was the form team that pulled out an emphatic victory at Anfield on Wednesday, as Ramiro Funes Mori's deserved red card spelled doom for an already overmatched Everton side.
After the yutes and second stringers beat Bournemouth on Sunday, Jürgen Klopp again made wholesale changes, retaining only Lucas Leiva and Roberto Firmino. James Milner partnered Lucas in the double pivot of a 4-2-3-1, ahead of the established first-choice backline of Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno. Divock Origi lead the line, with support from Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana.
In the opening minutes, Everton seemed to be the team most up for the occasion, breaking up Liverpool's attacking play and swarming on the ball carrier. The Reds still drew the first big chance, as a botched clearance from Bryan Oviedo and a first-time pass from Coutinho put Lallana through on goal, but Joel Robles denied the Englishman's finish when a pass to Firmino would've been the better option. Milner picked up a yellow card on seven minutes after racking up a series of sloppy tackles, before Lucas was nutmegged by a lively Kevin Mirallas, whose subsequent shot was put high and wide.
After a disconcerting opening fifteen minutes, the home side started putting together stretches of possession and creating dangerous situations. An outside the boot ball from Coutinho found Lallana in space down the left, but his low cross was cut out ahead of Firmino in the Everton box. A nice attacking move that saw Firmino play Moreno in down the touchline and the Spaniard picking out Lallana at the far post petered out, as the latter failed to find Origi six yards from goal.
The centre-backs were called into action soon after, first as Lovren made a sensational challenge on Aaron Lennon, before Sakho matched his partner with an equally majestic tackle on Romelu Lukaku inside the six-yard box. Liverpool were in the ascendancy, and a hectic ten-minute period saw both James McCarthy and Funes Mori escape what looked like deserved bookings, while the home team produced a number of shots and dangerous situations, culminating in another counter to which Robles was equal, this time closing down Firmino's shot from close range.
Two minutes from half-time, a short corner set Milner up for the left-footed cross, and worst striker in Ligue 1 Divock Origi destroyed most promising defender in the Premier League John Stones in the air to bury a header from six yards. It was Origi's fifth goal in five appearances, and tenth on the season.
In injury time, another short corner set Milner up from the opposite side of the box, and his floated cross - a carbon copy of the one Lovren headed home against Dortmund - found an unmarked Sakho at the far post. The Frenchman made no mistake and bulleted the ball into the top corner, scoring in two consecutive matches for the first time in his career.
Everton had a mountain to climb after a lackluster thirty minutes to end the first half, and made it harder yet on themselves, as Funes Mori got himself sent off for a studs-first horror challenge on Origi. Referee Robert Madley reached for the yellow card, but was bailed out by his linesman, whose assistance allowed the match official to make the right call. Origi was substituted with what appeared to be an ankle ligament injury, and Daniel Sturridge came on.
The substitution would pay off almost immediately, as Lucas intercepted a Stones pass into midfield, carried the ball forward and slotted a perfect pass into Sturridge's feet. The striker made no mistake and buried the ball in the bottom corner, leaving Robles in an impressive but ineffective full split in the process.
Joe Allen came on for Firmino five minutes later, and the rest of the match was essentially a siege, with the home side surrounding the Everton box, creating shooting opportunities at will. Coutinho buried one of those - although Sturridge will claim he got a touch on it - fifteen minutes from time. A 35-pass olé session took place, and Liverpool rode out the rest of the match while saving some energy.
A lot of people will surely put this result down to the one-man advantage Liverpool maintained for most of the second half, but their first half performance should not be discounted. Everton were kept to 3 shots, none of which were from inside the box, nor on target, while the home side produced two goals on top of some clear chances from solid possession play and transitional attacks. The match was effectively shut down after the red card, with Coutinho completing twice as many passes into the final third as all of Everton, and the visitors having a total of four(!) touches in the final third in the last thirty minutes of the match.
The only real negative to take from this match is the injury to Origi, who has been in blistering form, and while he wasn't as involved in this match as has been the case recently, he scored another goal. With confirmation from Klopp that the leg wasn't broken, the hope will be that the ankle ligaments of Origi recover quickly enough that even if he doesn't come back in time to play for Liverpool this season, his participation at the Euros this summer won't be under threat.
Beyond that, top marks across the board. Sakho and Lovren dominated the dangerous Lukaku, and Lucas was dominant after a slow start. Milner notched his 13th and 14th assists of the season, while often Coutinho took up a deep role, setting the tempo of the game with a tremendous passing display. Lallana was everywhere on both sides of the ball, and Firmino, while still a little rusty, looks to be finding his form again. With a sharp and healthy Sturridge available, this is as coherent and complete as Liverpool have looked under Klopp, and just in time for the season run-in.