Monday 24 April 2017

Sadio Mane makes it a red Christmas after derby tempers flare

Everton 0 Liverpool 1

Sadio Mané scores the winner against Everton. Photo: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters
Sadio Mané scores the winner against Everton. Photo: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

Jason Burt

It was somehow appropriate that a game dominated by sinners and red mist was decided in favour of the red half of Merseyside by a former Saint.

Sadio Mane, who played under Everton manager Ronald Koeman at Southampton, pounced in injury-time to secure the three points for Jurgen Klopp's men and move them back up to second.

There were sparks on the pitch after Mane scored, as the striker pounced on a rebound, with a flare thrown on - and then more - by the celebrating Liverpool fans. That could provoke Football Association action.

The goal came halfway through the eight minutes of added-time - a sign of what a bone-jarring encounter this was - as substitute Daniel Sturridge turned sharply to shoot low, with the trundling effort coming back off the post and Mane reacting quickest to make it a red Christmas.

It could have been a red Christmas in other ways, too. Before the goal it seemed the talking point would be Everton's robust approach which was summed up by an ugly, reckless challenge by Ross Barkley which should have resulted in a sending-off instead of a caution as he caught Jordan Henderson. It also sparked a melee.

The result means that it is now 20 league encounters, and six years, since Everton triumphed in this derby.

Barkley: Escaped red card. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
Barkley: Escaped red card. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

This fixture did not need ramping up but Divock Origi gave it a go pre-match with a reference to it being a "war" and certainly that will have been met with delight by Koeman, who has spent the past few months demanding more aggression from his players and finally getting that a week ago in the rousing victory over Arsenal.

And there was a visceral roar among the Goodison Park faithful every time their team won the ball back, with Ireland midfielder James McCarthy - who was taken off at half-time after injuring his hamstring the break - charging into tackles, Idrissa Gueye just charging around and the ball fizzing twice across the Liverpool penalty area.

Certainly Everton tried to keep the tempo high; tried to knock Liverpool out of their stride and came flying forward.

Sloppiness

Liverpool players celebrate the late winner from Sadio Mane as a flare is thrown onto the pitch at Goodison Park. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Liverpool players celebrate the late winner from Sadio Mane as a flare is thrown onto the pitch at Goodison Park. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

This, expectedly, was not a slow start from the home side, with Klopp reacting on the touchline, sensing his team needed to respond, but their early sloppiness was summed up when Henderson miscued a back-pass and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet - retained ahead of Loris Karius - struck it straight to Aaron Lennon 30 yards from goal.

His shot was deflected behind the onrushing Barkley.

Everton began to push and tried to press home their advantage while Liverpool tried to gain a foothold in the contest, with Georginio Wijnaldum firing wide after being teed up by Nathaniel Clyne before another half-chance fell the midfielder's way and he shot weakly at goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

As Everton raged over a perceived handball by Henderson, from Seamus Coleman's cross, Liverpool countered smoothly and quickly with Mane dummying for Wijnaldum to find the over-lapping Clyne, whose low cross was met by Origi. Suddenly there was a clear chance, a clear sight of goal, but the striker side-footed wastefully over.

It roused Liverpool, though. They gradually started to gain a measure of control, with McCarthy slowed by an injury and Everton feeling the effects of his discomfort, although they forged their best chance on half-time as Ramiro Funes Mori rose unopposed to meet Barkley's corner, only to plant his header wide.

It was not short of commitment but there was a deficit of quality; perhaps because of that commitment. It meant there were no efforts on target in the first half.

McCarthy's injury meant Gareth Barry came on, taking him to 610 Premier League appearances, outright second in the list behind Ryan Giggs (632) and one ahead of Frank Lampard. But he was helpless as Liverpool should have gone ahead, with a simple through ball finding Roberto Firmino, who ran away from Ashley Williams, steadied himself clear on goal and attempted to lift the ball over Stekelenburg who clawed it away.

Even then the chance fell to Adam Lallana and Mane, who got in each other's way with neither able to connect.

Although Romelu Lukaku then glanced a header wide, from Barry's floated cross, it felt that Liverpool were steadily imposing themselves, with Firmino and Mane exchanging passes only for Leighton Baines to deny the latter with a desperate challenge that left both him and, more seriously, Stekelenburg hurt and the ball sliding past the post. After a prolonged delay and attempts to carry on, Stekelenburg was replaced.

Liverpool then feared they would lose their captain, Henderson, when Barkley caught him on the top of the ankle, with both sets of players reacting angrily.

"Maybe Ross Barkley was lucky, it was a hard tackle," conceded Koeman.

After the game restarted, Williams headed straight at Mignolet and Firmino volleyed over before the Brazilian forced a fine reaction save from substitute keeper Joel Robles.

The game became played in Everton's half. The home side seemed spent, unable to break out and then fell behind to Mane's sharp reaction before Coleman, brilliantly, recovered to prevent them falling further behind as he cleared Firmino's shot off the line.

But it was ultimately in vain. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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