Liverpool simply dismantled neighbors Everton 4-0 on Tuesday night in a Merseyside derby that will rightfully take its place in the Reds’ history books.
Fittingly, Steven Gerrard was the man to open the floodgates, paving the way for Daniel Sturridge to register twice in the first half and then Luis Suarez to seal the triumph with yet another remarkable individual goal.
The result — Brendan Rodgers’ first win over the Blues — not only consolidated Liverpool’s current position in the Barclays Premier League top four but opened a four-point gap to their opponents.
When pregame team news arrived, the team-sheet showed three changes by Rodgers — Jon Flanagan, Simon Mignolet and Raheem Sterling replacing Martin Kelly, Brad Jones and Victor Moses, respectively, from the team that beat Bournemouth last weekend.
The first warning shot was fired by the visitors with barely 60 seconds on the clock. Ross Barkley collected possession 45 yards from goal, strode forward and unleashed a left-footer that skimmed over the crossbar at the Kop end.
Within seconds, Tim Howard’s palms were stung by a rasping Jordan Henderson volley, before outstanding pressing by Sterling presented Suarez with the chance to crash a low shot, which the opposing goalkeeper dived to his left to claw away.
It’s a common cliché to describe derbies as frenetic, but the 15 minutes truly were with the game played at a phenomenal pace, and Howard had to be alert again to deny Sterling after the winger connected with a Sturridge delivery and toe-poked goalward.
An intricate exchange involving Henderson and Suarez ended with the latter dispatching a strike, which was deflected for a corner in the 21st minute. The Uruguayan took the set piece himself and planted it onto the head of the skipper, who powered home and set off on a ferocious celebration.
With Romelu Lukaku forced off injured, Liverpool sensed an opportunity, and Sturridge whistled a curler inches over the crossbar from the left edge of the Everton penalty area after being teed up by Suarez.
Roberto Martinez’s side responded, and Mignolet was at full stretch to his right to place two strong hands on a drilled attempt by Blues defender Phil Jagielka, as the tempo of the encounter merely increased on the half-hour mark.
Kevin Mirallas then struck a daisy-cutter from 20 yards, which eluded the reach of Mignolet but, fortunately, traveled wide of the corner that the Belgian was aiming for. What happened next was incredible.
Firstly, Philippe Coutinho conjured a majestic through ball, which dissected the Everton backline and gifted Sturridge the chance to take a touch and coolly lift a finish over Howard to extend the advantage to two.
Less than 120 seconds later, it was 3-0 and Sturridge had a second. Kolo Toure lofted a hopeful ball forward from the Liverpool half, but it was sufficient for the No. 15 to raid in behind and lob a fabulous effort high into the Anfield air and perfectly back down into the far corner.
Everton kicked off the second period determined to gain a foothold on proceedings, and Mignolet was forced into an instant reaction to punch away a blistering drive by half-time substitute Leon Osman.
The effort precipitated another dramatic session of play. Suarez added a fourth goal for the home side five minutes into the half when he dribbled the entire length of the Blues’ half and slotted an accurate finish into the corner from an angle.
Four minutes later, Howard rushed out to prevent the onrushing Sterling and could only clatter the No. 31. Handed penalty duties by the captain, however, Sturridge missed the chance for a hat trick by smashing the spot-kick into the Kop end.
There was no let-up by Liverpool, though, and Coutinho almost deceived the Everton goalkeeper with a shot to the near post from a short Gerrard corner, before James McCarthy called on Mignolet to spring low and block his clipped hit in response.
But the night undoubtedly belonged to the Reds and, upon the final whistle, Kopites drifted home to reflect on what deservedly will be remembered as “one of those nights at Anfield” for years to come.
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