Saturday 20 January 2018

Sturridge brace helps rampant Liverpool rip Everton apart

Liverpool 4 Everton 0

Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool is congratulated by teammates after scoring his team's third goal
Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool is congratulated by teammates after scoring his team's third goal
Everton's Romelu Lukaku is stretchered off the pitch during during their English Premier League soccer match against Liverpool at Anfield in Liverpool
Everton's Phil Jagielka and Liverpool's Jordan Henderson battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool
Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the opening goal
Raheem Sterling of Liverpool is brought down for a penalty by goalkeeper Tim Howard of Everton

Henry Winter

Liverpool recorded their biggest victory in the Merseyside Derby since 1982, cutting Everton to pieces with the pace and precision of their counter-attacks.

Steven Gerrard headed in the first, Daniel Sturridge struck twice, and missed a penalty, before the outstanding Luis Suarez added the fourth as Liverpool strengthened their hold on the fourth Champions League position.

Everton never gave up, and Kevin Mirallas was always a threat, but this was painful for their fans to watch, their mood darkened further by an ankle injury suffered by Romelu Lukaku.

Liverpool were too fast, too determined. Their work-rate was of the highest order.

If Gerrard and Sturridge vied for the man-of-the-match honours, Suarez's willingness to cover back as well as race forward, registering his 23rd goal of the season, was also praise-worthy. Philippe Coutinho left to a standing ovation.

These are good, promising times for Liverpool, clearly responding strongly to Brendan Rodgers' enlightened, attack-minded management.

Victory gives Liverpool their best goal difference (+29) after 23 games of a Premier League season, eclipsing their totals in 1994-95 and 1995-96.

Any hope that Everton would be lifted by the quick return of Ross Barkley from a broken toe soon dissolved as Liverpool, so quick in mind and movement, dominated this 222nd Merseyside Derby, the 190th league meeting between the neighbours.

Rodgers' attacking quartet, comprising Raheem Sterling, Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge, were exceptional in their speed, their thought, their interchanging and also their willingness to track back.

Sterling and Suarez frequently covered back to protect their full-backs. Barring an early long-range strike from Barkley into the Kop, Liverpool settled far the swifter.

Tim Howard's goal came under immediate pressure.

HOUNDED

Everton's keeper punched out a Jordan Henderson shot and then pushed behind a Suarez 20-yarder after Phil Jagielka had been hounded by Sterling.

It was incredibly congested in the centre, with Gerrard sitting deep for Liverpool, dictating the tempo.

James McCarthy and Gareth Barry tried to shield Everton's weakened back-four but were kept constantly busy by the movement of Suarez and Coutinho.

Suarez was roaming all over, a fox hunting easy pickings, occasionally shifting wide to examine John Stones' capabilities and also switching with Sturridge in the centre.

Trying to contain Suarez was like trying to pin mercury to a wall.

With Gerrard delivering some low, pinpoint passes, skidding across the glistening canvas to Suarez and company, Everton were under extreme pressure, struggling to get the ball.

They did have a chance, a skewed shot from Steven Pienaar, but this was the Liverpool show, the Gerrard show, the Sturridge show, the Suarez show.

The Uruguayan tested Howard with a right-footed shot from the edge of the area.

Elegantly juggling the ball, Sturridge then ushered it through to Sterling, who broke behind the thin blue line, through on goal, but he could not beat Howard.

The derby was typically frenetic, inevitably so with what Rodgers called "bragging rights and vital points" at stake.

Martin Atkinson was trying to let it flow, allowing some leniency, particularly when Barry flirted with a caution by catching Coutinho.

It summed up the game: Liverpool in charge, in possession while Everton clumsily tried to regain the ball.

Liverpool simply moved up another gear, scoring three quick goals. When the persistent Suarez won a corner in front of the Everton fans, he appeared to have missiles thrown at him. He picked one up and lobbed it towards Atkinson.

Suarez jogged over to the corner flag, his every step followed with comments from the Everton fans. He ignored them, focusing on the ball, running in and sending it towards the near-post where the unmarked Gerrard, darting from right to left, powered his header in.

It looked a goal made at Melwood.

Gerrard's sixth goal of the season was Liverpool's 150th in all derby meetings at Anfield.

Gerrard has now scored nine times in 31 games against Everton (only Ian Rush, with 25, has scored more for Liverpool in derbies). It had to be Gerrard, who loves the intensity and significance, scoring.

As Liverpool celebrated, the Everton medical staff came on to attend to Lukaku, who was lying on the ground, apparently having turned his ankle.

Eventually lifted on to a stretcher, he was carried away, the striker holding his hands to his face.

Steven Naismith ran on, attempting to replace him.

Already trailing, the sight of Lukaku departing further drained some of the belief from Everton.

Liverpool went for the jugular again after 32 minutes, this time scoring from a magnificent flowing move, a break full of touch and speed. Sterling began on it on the right, finding Coutinho, who angled his pass towards Sturridge.

Everton's defence was full of holes, missing the organising of Sylvin Distin.

Only when Coutinho had released the ball did Stones spot Sturridge's run. Too late. Sturridge controlled the speeding ball with his left foot, then despatched it unerringly past Howard.

Everton's defence was shellshocked, utterly failing to respond when Liverpool came raiding again three minutes later.

Kolo Toure hooked a clearance upfield, and only Sturridge realised its possibilities.

Noting Howard advancing out, Sturridge calmly lobbed the ball over the Everton keeper. It went high and then dropped almost arrogantly over the line.

As the Kop cackled in delight, having a 70s retro chant moment of "Liverpool are magic, Everton are tragic", the visitors did respond.

They knew what was at stake, the chase for Champions League football, the local pride, the banter coming their way at work today. Phil Jagielka and Barry went close.

Barkley had a shot blocked. The tireless Mirallas kept looking for little glimpses of space in Liverpool's defence but Toure and Martin Skrtel held firm.

Liverpool added a fourth five minutes into the second half. Suarez versus Jagielka was never going to be the most equal of foot races and the Uruguayan won easily before slotting the ball past Howard.

Four minutes later it should have been 5-0. Howard brought down the flying Sterling and Atkinson pointed to the spot.

Sturridge stepped up for his hat-trick chance but skied the ball into the Kop.

England internationals are clearly showing their penalty-taking prowess early in tournament year. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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