Relentless Reds maintain title charge to leave Silva on brink
Liverpool 5 Everton 2
It was the nightmare before Christmas all over again for Everton and Marco Silva.
If Divock Origi's injury-time winner in this fixture a year ago was torturous, the Belgian's contribution in a 5-2 hammering may mean the bell tolls on Silva's Goodison career.
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Everton are now in the bottom three after another chastening evening across Stanley Park, while their neighbours have their 14th win in 15 Premier League games.
The Kop gleefully sang 'going down' as Gini Wijnaldum polished off victory with the fifth in injury-time. Never has the gap between these clubs looked so stark. Rarely have Everton's prospects seemed so bleak.
Even Jurgen Klopp's fiddling with his line-up - he left out Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino - did not spare the Everton defence. Liverpool scored four in the first half. They looked like they would beat Jordan Pickford at will at one stage, although their chances of a relaxing 90 minutes continue to be undermined by an unreliable back four. The quest for a clean sheet goes on as Everton tried in vain to avoid complete humiliation thanks to Michael Kean and Richarlison. They might have scored more.
But in Origi, Liverpool have a striker who specialises in Mersey derbies and European epics. He struck twice before half-time, Everton's defenders seemingly in terror at the sight of his number so much space did they afford him. Xherdan Shaqiri and Sadio Mane scored the others, Everton showing willing but frightening lack of quality and organisation at the back.
Silva has been on the brink so long now he resembles the coach in the final scene of 'The Italian Job'. Every time Liverpool attacked here it was another nudge over the cliff. He was running out of ideas to save himself.
Rarely, if ever, has an Everton manager headed into a Merseyside derby where the consequences were so extreme. A win would have made Silva the first victorious Everton coach at Anfield since 1999. Defeat would probably mean he did not make it to end of the week. There was a time, particularly when Mane scored Liverpool's fourth in the 45th minute, he may have considered himself lucky to make it to half-time. From the moment Origi exposed the visitors on six minutes, Silva's cause looked hopeless.
Klopp had dangled a carrot with his team selection, seeking to preserve a considerable Premier League lead while keeping players fresh. That could be the only explanation for a surprising choice which omitted Salah and Firmino. You may also need a trawl through the archives to find the last time a fit Liverpool captain was left out of the Merseyside derby, but Jordan Henderson was also rested.
The team sheet should have buoyed the visitors, especially as Shaqiri and Adam Lallana have been so short of football, even if Origi's inclusion was a reminder of last year's last-minute heartbreak. Then the match started with Liverpool showing no signs of attacking weakness.
They incessantly probed Everton's right, where Djibril Sidibe and Mason Holgate looked like they had only been acquainted with each other at kick-off.
Twice within 20 minutes a simple pass from Mane left the defenders staring at each other, Origi and Shaqiri benefiting to beat Pickford. As Liverpool celebrated, Sidibe and Holgate argued. Sidibe would not make it to the end of the first half, Silva scrapping the catastrophic formation and replacing the right-back with Bernard.
By then Liverpool had struck a third, Origi found with little more than an up and under by Dejan Lovren. Klopp's side were having to do remarkably little to slice through.
Curiously, Everton still retained hope of a reprieve as the home defence was in similarly generous mood. Michael Kean and Richarlison pounced on hesitancy in a Liverpool back four which seems to be missing Joel Matip more than many imagined.
It meant even though Mane had completed a wonderful counter-attack to ensure Liverpool scored four in the first half of a derby since 1935, there was a sour feeling at the interval for the careless hosts.
The more optimistic among the Evertonians' might have been reminded of the 4-4 draw between these sides in 1991 - a manager lost his job the day after that game too, even if Kenny Dalglish walked out of choice.
There was a visible effort to restore calm in the second half, Liverpool more controlled, but it was a triumph of sorts that there were still nerves in Anfield entering the final 30 minutes.
Silva introduced Moise Kean in possibly a last, desperate act to ensure one of his final signings makes a contribution. The Italian ought to have made it 4-3, summing up the strangest Everton performance of Silva's reign, switching between capitulation and honourable application from one minute to the next. At least Silva's side kept trying for him, even if Mane twice missed a sitter with only Pickford to beat. Wijnaldum did not miss the chance for the fifth.
As Klopp's men left to a standing ovation, Silva was left to fear the next call from owner Farhad Moshiri. (© Daily Telegraph, London)