Brilliance of Mohamed Salah sweeps Liverpool past Everton in derby

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It was everything Everton had feared and Liverpool desired on their return to the stadium where the fault-lines first appeared in the title defence last season. Jürgen Klopp instructed his players to be “really aggressive in a football way”, not obsessed with revenge, and their vast superiority shone through an emphatic defeat of Rafael Benítez’s sorry side.

Liverpool outclassed their local rivals in every department. The outstanding quality of the goals from Jordan Henderson, Mohamed Salah, twice, and Diogo Jota were in keeping with the overall performance, and extended Liverpool’s record of scoring twice or more to an 18th game in succession.

Related: Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva hands first defeat to Gerrard at Aston Villa

Everton, in stark contrast, are a mess on and off the pitch. Their heaviest home derby defeat for 39 years, an error-strewn display and eight matches without a win naturally turns the spotlight and the pressure on Benítez. “Rafa’s at the wheel,” the Liverpool fans sang of their former Champions League-winning manager in the closing stages.

But the response from those Evertonians who remained at the final whistle was telling. Chants of “Sack the board” emanated from the Gwladys Street end while the chairman, Bill Kenwright, and the director of football, Marcel Brands, received fierce criticism from fans on all sides of the directors’ box. Farhad Moshiri, the majority shareholder who ultimately makes the decisions that have turned the team into an expensive embarrassment, was nowhere to be seen.

Liverpool fans started singing Benítez’s name before kick-off as they prepared to revel in their rivals’ ongoing misery. Their optimism was, unsurprisingly, well placed. Klopp’s team swept through gaps in the Everton midfield with ludicrous ease. By the time Henderson curled the visitors ahead with nine minutes gone, it could have been Liverpool’s fourth of an embryonic game.

Liverpool’s first clear chance arrived in the opening seconds after a communication mix-up between Seamus Coleman and Jordan Pickford presented Trent Alexander-Arnold with the first corner. Joel Matip was left completely unmarked by an Everton team that has struggled with Benítez’s zonal marking instructions all season, but steered a free header wide.

Salah, of all people, squandered a better opportunity when Andros Townsend’s loose pass released Jota to the by-line. Jota’s cross found the Premier League’s top scorer in front of goal but, opting for an awkward volley instead of a stooping header, Salah skied over. He forced a fine save from Pickford moments later with a first time shot from Sadio Mane’s centre as Liverpool continued to prosper from overloads down their left.

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson celebrates after opening the scoring against Everton
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson celebrates after opening the scoring against Everton. Photograph: Jon Super/AP

Eventually, inevitably, Liverpool found a finishing touch. And in style. For all the visitors’ evident superiority they were regularly assisted by careless distribution from their hosts. The opener arrived after Demarai Gray broke clear and threaded a pass between Everton’s two-man attack of Richarlison and Salomon Rondon, straight to Andy Robertson. The Liverpool full-back pounced, exchanging passes with Mane and pulling a low cross back from the left towards the incoming Henderson, who opened up his body to sweep a delightful shot past Pickford’s right hand. His chest-thumping celebrations in front of the Gwladys Street end prompted one idiot to throw a plastic bottle towards the Liverpool throng. It missed.

Liverpool’s second stemmed from another lightning attack after Everton lost possession, this time from Ben Godfrey in central midfield. The immaculate Henderson threaded a superb ball around Lucas Digne and into the path of Salah, who advanced on Pickford from the right and dinked an audacious chip over the England goalkeeper from a tight angle.

Everton’s worst derby fears were being realised. Townsend and Gray were booked for diving, while Allan, Digne and Thiago all received harsh yellow cards from referee Paul Tierney. Supporters’ anger at the club’s mismanagement was summed up by a banner that appeared as Liverpool dominated. “Nil satis nisi optimum”, it read, the club’s Latin motto of nothing but the best is good enough. Yet Goodison suddenly had hope when Gray dragged Benítez’s team back into the contest. Richarlison created the goal with a neat turn from Allan’s pass and a piercing ball through the heart of the Liverpool defence. Gray raced through and squeezed his finish under the advancing Alisson.

Everton succeeded in closing off the gaps that Liverpool had exploited in the opening stages, for a while at least, but undermined the feint hint of recovery with a catalogue of errors that gifted the title contenders their third.

Townsend first played a poor corner to the front post where Robertson headed clear. Gray then put Coleman under pressure with a high, awkward pass that the Everton captain mis‑controlled into the path of Salah. There was still plenty to do for the Egypt international as he sprinted from the centre circle, yet he held off Coleman before rolling a cool, clinical finish beyond the advancing Pickford.

When Jota fired the fourth into the roof of the Everton net, having collected Robertson’s ball into the box and turned Allan’s lazy challenge, it was the cue for many home fans to head for the exits and Benítez’s name to be chanted again. By the Liverpool section, of course.

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