Henderson settles score
Jordan Henderson had a bit of a score to settle with the Merseyside derby.
Amid all the hurt and hullabaloo of last season’s controversial Goodison meeting, it’s easy to forget the Liverpool skipper had a dramatic stoppage-time winner chalked off by a contentious offside call.
And when the teams reconvened at Anfield a few months later, Henderson suffered the groin problem that ultimately meant he didn’t feature again that campaign.
The midfielder, then, was clearly determined to make up for lost time, judging from the barnstorming performance in which he helped the Reds wrest an early initiative that rarely looked like loosening.
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First came his opener on nine minutes, a precision first-time left-foot finish into the bottom corner from a neat pull-back by Andy Robertson.
Then, 10 minutes later, Henderson turned creator, sending Mohamed Salah away to double the visiting advantage. It was his fourth assist of the season.
But a derby calls for much more than just attacking flair, particularly in the engine room.
And the manner in which Henderson was more than willing to put in the hard yards – and put his foot in when it mattered – underpinned everything else in his game.
With Fabinho being Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara exorcising any lingering demons from his last appearance here – the duo remain unbeaten when in tandem – Liverpool dominated the midfield.
As ever in these fixtures, it was the crucial battle. And Henderson, after an early-season wobble, is now at the heart once more.
Van Dijk proves point
Whether it be in terms of emotion or chances to the opposition, Virgil van Dijk rarely gives much away.
But, midway through the second half, there was a glimpse of what this game must have meant to him.
With Liverpool having won a free-kick 30 yards from goal, usual taker Trent Alexander-Arnold was eased to one side as Van Dijk assumed control of the situation before, perhaps inevitably, blasting his effort straight into the wall.
The Dutchman, though, had already proven his point, a significant psychological hurdle cleared with a solid display in which he helped limit the threat of Salomon Rondon and Richarlison to a minimum.
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Certainly, the silly jeers from the home crowd that greeted his every touch early on had long since dissipated by the time he was cruising through the final moments, Everton well beaten.
If there was a touch of disappointment at the failure to keep a fourth successive clean sheet, it was outweighed by good performances elsewhere across the back line.
Joel Matip, recalled in place of Ibrahima Konate at centre-back, was resolute while Andy Robertson continues to be a rested development having had a hand in three goals.
And for Van Dijk, this was a Goodison visit to remember for all the right reasons.
Benitez message loud and clear
There were still 25 minutes until kick-off when Liverpool supporters inside Goodison began singing the praises of Rafa Benitez.
By the end, the strains of “Rafa’s at the wheel” could be heard drifting across the chilly night air, as cutting for the Blues boss as the sight of gaping holes in the stands, the home fans voting with their feet long before the final whistle.
Quite how long Benitez lasts at Everton is, of course, not really the concern of Reds fans who swiftly turned their attentions to chanting a salute for Jurgen Klopp, who responded with a trademark triple fist-pump to the delight of the away end.
But it’s still unclear whether Benitez’s relationship with the followers of the club he led brilliantly to a Champions League triumph in 2005 has been irrevocably damaged by his move to the other side of Stanley Park.
This was a landmark night in many ways, the first time Liverpool have scored four at Goodison inside 90 minutes since that memorable 5-0 win back in 1982.
It meant the Reds became the first top-flight club to score at least twice in 18 successive games in all competitions, and also the first to score at least twice on the road in 14 consecutive matches.
And with 43 league goals, no other side has scored more this season within Europe’s top five leagues. What a night.