For the first time maybe since the Community Shield, Liverpool looked like Liverpool again, albeit against a local rival who also happen to be one of the very worst teams in the league.
Everton did beat league leaders Arsenal last weekend, however, and tortured the Reds with destructive play and lightning counters in the reverse fixture back in fall, so nothing could be taken for granted ahead of time, and thankfully, Jürgen Klopp’s men showed themselves far superior to their visitors on this occasion.
With a win and three points in the books, then, we dig in and take a look at some of the winners and losers on the night.
Intensity: While it is difficult to say exactly which underlying issues have plagued this Liverpool side this season, one of the enduring outcomes of whatever it is has been an inability to get appropriately fired up for a match and maintaining any sort of intensity throughout, leading to a lackluster press and an appalling duel success rate.
Tonight, those issues were nowhere to be seen, all of a sudden, as the Reds largely dominated their rivals both on and off the ball, putting in more tackles than their opponents at a higher success rate despite having 50% more possession, and — for the opening 75 minutes, at least, after which the game was essentially decided — keeping Everton pinned in their own half for long stretches.
Whether this performance was a one-off or the sort of thing the Reds can replicate in the coming weeks and months remains to be seen, but it was undoubtedly a positive development, given what had come before.
First goal: Cody Gakpo was a surprise signing in the early stages of the January transfer window, and while his performances and on-pitch contribution have been improving game by game, he had not yet done much to show exactly why Jürgen Klopp decided this was the target to be prioritised in the middle of a difficult season.
After 545 minutes in a Red shirt, though, the former PSV man got his goal, ghosting in at the far post to tap home a driven Trent Alexander-Arnold cross in the manner LFC attackers have done with regularity over the past half decade. He seemed to grow in stature afterwards, too, and while the prospect of transforming him into a Roberto Firmino cipher at the cost of pushing Darwin Núñez out wide still bothers this writer, at least he appears to be progressing in the role.
Baby Bajcetic: It will probably get a little lost in the bundle of larger-scale narratives, but Stefan Bajcetic is only 18, and while he didn’t put on a Dominant Performance, the number of teenagers who can contribute on a weekly basis for elite teams is short, and it appears the Reds have got another one.
Calm under pressure, always intelligently positioned off the ball, and with an increasingly impressive passing range, the Spaniard played the control eight position — currently occupied by Thiago and previously the domain of Georginio Wijnaldum — with an assurity well beyond his years, and in a manner that suggests it is there — just ahead of whoever plays the true six — he will make his career at Anfield.
Alongside Harvey Elliott, Calvin Ramsay and Ben Doak, Bajcetic forms an incredibly promising teenage quartet that will hopefully continue developing in Liverpool Red for the next decade.
Soft as Toffee: Lost their heads towards the end there, didn’t they. Absolutely livid that an opposition player would engage in any sort of gamesmanship, an activity entirely unheard of for the likes of proud Evertonians, the whole Toffees squad went off on Andy Robertson after he poked the ball past Jordan Pickford — he of wasting roughly 45 minutes in a match by laying on the ball — after the whistle had gone.
Instead of trying to get back into the game, the Blues wasted precious time chasing after and self-righteously reprimanding the Scot, before trying to get into a brawl with anybody in a red kit. This, by the way, after spending the opening 45 minutes kicking out and any and everything, getting called for 13 fouls, but somehow never getting booked.
Petty, embarrassing, stupid, hilarious. Enjoy the Championship.
Barclays refereeing: Good lord Simon Hooper, remember to bring your cards next time.
What Happens Next
High-flying, newly-minted oil billionaires and slavery enjoyers Newcastle play hosts to the Reds on Saturday, as Liverpool look to continue their momentum and make up the nine-point gap to the Magpies in fourth. Sadly, a real six-pointer, but hopefully one in which the Reds can establish tonight’s performance as a trend.