It was clear very shortly after this evening’s Merseyside Derby kicked off at Anfield that Everton were going to do everything in their power to bog down the flow of play, waste time, and frustrate the home side no matter the cost to their threat going forward.
With referee Stuart Atwell seemingly happy to allow the Toffees to get away with these anti-football tactics with little punishment, they managed to accomplish the aforementioned goals for an hour before an Andy Robertson header put the Reds on top. Divock Origi, noted nemesis of the blue half of Merseyside, then killed off the match and guaranteed Everton would end the day in the relegation zone.
Speaking with BBC Sport after the match, Jürgen Klopp spoke about how difficult the negative tactics of their foes made it for his side to find any rhythm in the first half.
“Thank God the game has two halves. We didn’t play particularly well in the first half,” admitted Klopp. “They made it uncomfortable but we didn’t get in behind the last line. We didn’t have enough movement.
“We weren’t quick enough. We passed the ball into the area they had nine players. Second half we were much more direct and caused them much more problems. The goals were wonderful.”
Everton’s time-wasting and extreme efforts to delay play whenever possible from the start were especially tough for a team that thrives on fast-paced, attacking football. Even though Klopp knew Everton would play as they did, it’s still difficult to find attacking rhythm against a parked bus and constant, lengthy stoppages.
“We expected it, but we didn’t react well, Klopp said. “It’s difficult. Each ball [Jordan] Pickford has it felt like he takes five minutes so we couldn’t gain rhythm, which is obviously important if you want to break down a low block. So yeah, that’s what we expected them to do.”
Klopp was anything but frustrated with the result though. It may not have been an emphatic dismantling of the opposition (you can’t play Manchester United every week!), but it was a well-earned, hard-fought victory. With the sheer volume of games this team has played and won this season, you have to just be happy with the wins no matter how they come.
“The amount of wins we’ve had in recent months is insane. It can’t always be at the start everything clicks and you cross the ball and score wonderful goals. You have to work. The boys did that again so I’m really, really happy.”