Dream derby for debutant Van Dijk
Liverpool’s record signing scores late winner to see off arch-rivals Everton
The first instalment has been repaid. Virgil van Dijk announced his arrival as Liverpool’s record signing and the world’s most expensive defender with an 85th-minute winner to knock Everton out of the FA Cup, the first time the visitors have suffered that fate in their history. There was no better way for Liverpool’s debutant to respond to the pressure and expectation.
This had been another gruelling derby encounter for Jürgen Klopp against a Sam Allardyce team and his reaction to Van Dijk’s late header spoke of relief. Liverpool had led through a controversial James Milner penalty, conceded an equaliser to Gylfi Sigurdsson and looked set for an unwanted replay until their new signing’s intervention. Phil Jagielka and Jordan Pickford were found wanting at the winner but Van Dijk’s Anfield career is up and running in style.
Allardyce described the third-round tie as “a glory game” on Thursday but his pre-match prediction was less effusive.
“The one thing we won’t be doing is playing open, expansive football,” the manager said of a club that spent ¤157m on new players in the summer and ¤30m on Friday on the Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun. The Turkey international would have been included on the bench at Anfield had he been registered in time but the deal, worth ¤140,000 a week to the 26-year-old, was delayed and bizarrely announced by Everton at half-time.
Yannick Bolasie’s return from a 12-month injury lay-off was a significant factor, with his willingness to attack Andrew Robertson at least offering Calvert-Lewin some support. Everton, however, did not create one chance of note in the first half. But more surprising was Liverpool’s equal ineffectiveness in the final third.
In mitigation Klopp’s forward options were reduced or not at their sharpest. Sadio Mané arrived back from the African Footballer of the Year awards in Ghana in the early hours of the morning via private jet.
The winner, his team-mate Mohamed Salah, was absent through injury along with the transfer window distraction that is Philippe Coutinho.
Salah’s replacement, Adam Lallana, was on the periphery of a contest played in a good atmosphere until being central to the breakthrough.
The only incident of note in the opening 25 minutes was a poor challenge by Wayne Rooney on Joe Gomez that brought a deserved booking for the veteran. Otherwise it had been a flowing, even but incident-free derby until Emre Can played a first-time pass into Lallana just inside the penalty area and the boyhood Evertonian went down under a touch from Mason Holgate.
The referee, Robert Madley, immediately pointed to the spot and the controversy that shaped the last derby, and earned Everton a point, had resurfaced in Liverpool’s favour. Holgate raised his arms foolishly, Lallana tumbled easily and another soft penalty was the end result.
Milner dinked his penalty straight down the middle of Jordan Pickford’s goal and showed barely a flicker of emotion at opening the scoring.
Allardyce argued long over the decision with Jon Moss, the fourth official. Given their respective takes on Dejan Lovren’s push on Calvert-Lewin last month, the Everton manager should have agreed and Klopp disagreed with Madley’s judgment. If they were being consistent, that is.
Another flashpoint involving Holgate quickly followed. The young defender, still incensed by the penalty award, stupidly pushed Roberto Firmino over the advertising hoardings in front of the Main Stand as the pair chased the ball out for a throw-in.
Firmino reacted furiously and made a beeline for Holgate. Madley stepped into the Liverpool forward’s path as the Everton defender first eyeballed Firmino then erupted in response to something the Brazilian had said, man-handling the referee in the process. Remarkably no cards were shown but Madley engaged in a long conversation afterwards with Moss, who took notes. We may not have heard the last of this one.
A soft penalty was not the only similarity with the clubs’ recent draw in the league.
Again Liverpool should have put the contest beyond Everton at 1-0. Joe Gomez squandered a gilt-edged chance early in the second half when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s corner found him unmarked at the back post.
To Klopp’s disgust the young defender steered a close-range header wide. Lallana also shot wide when given a run on Phil Jagielka and Van Dijk headed straight at Pickford from an Oxlade-Chamberlain free-kick.
Everton punished Liverpool for their missed opportunities. Allardyce introduced Ademola Lookman for the unhappy Rooney, with the former England captain sailing too close to a red card, and the youngster was central to the equaliser. Collecting Bolasie’s clearance, he broke into the Liverpool half before spraying the ball out to Jagielka of all people sprinting down the right. Jagielka stumbled over his first touch but passed inside to Sigurdsson and he rolled a cool finish inside Loris Karius’ left-hand post.