Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool 4 Everton 0: Liverpool show top four credentials with victory over Everton at Anfield

'Liverpool are magic, Everton are tragic,' sings the Kop as Reds run riot

BY IAN HERBERT AND PA

The Kop sang “Liverpool are magic, Everton are tragic” – the lyric Emlyn Hughes belted out from the St George’s Hall steps when they brought the European Cup home from Rome in 1977, and the scoreline belonged to that gilded era, too.

Not since Ian Rush wreaked havoc at Goodison in November 1982 have Liverpool won a derby by such a margin.

For Liverpool, it felt like an overture of all that was best about the glory days. The Kop sang 'Liverpool are magic, Everton are tragic' - the lyric Emlyn Hughes belted out from the St George's Hall steps when they'd brought the European Cup home from Rome in 1977, and the scoreline belonged to that gilded era, too.

Not since Ian Rush wreaked havoc on this pitch in November 1982 have Liverpool won a derby by such a margin as this.

For Everton, it was a chilling reality check; a scoreline which punctures the soaring self-belief which last autumn's win at Old Trafford sent through their ranks and one from which, for all the optimism their manager Roberto Martinez radiates, you wonder whether they really can maintain a tilt at Champions League football.

The concern runs deeper than the loss of Romelu Lukaku, their prime goalscoring threat, who was stretchered from the field with ligament damage and of whose ankle manager Roberto Martinez said: “It's in a cast. It doesn't look too good.” It touches on the thinness of the squad, the vast gulf in wealth and resource between these teams, the question of whether they can match creation with enough attrition.

And of whether Martinez's supreme feats of motivation really can allow his team to surpass Liverpool, a side whose wage bill is twice their own and looked like it.

Martinez said after his first major setback as Everton manager that his side had been naieve - “desperate to come here and be ourselves” and had - in so many words - lost concentration and shape by attacking without caution.

He also spoke of players - Steven Pienaar, Antolin Alcaraz and Ross Barkley - lacking “intensity” because they were thrown in to the side, having not played recently. But Martinez played them because he had so very few alternatives. The risks on fitness that he promised he would not consider, 24 hours before the game, revealed how desperately significant a first win here in 15 years was. Barkley has barely trained, these past three week. Martinez gambled and lost.

Liverpool possessed the depth to take risks in a far more calculated way. An attacking side containing Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez revealed, by force of comparison, the reality of Everton begging and borrowing goalscorers.  But the visiting team also encountered a Liverpool capable of shutting them down.

Martinez's side had torn some holes in them at Goodison Park in November yet one of the images of this night was Steven Gerrard, the new Anfield regista, pouring himself into two big first half challenges to shut down Barkley. The defence had looked Liverpool's weak suit, too, but Everton never got close enough to exploit it: five shots on goal all night.

There was a Wigan Athletic quality to Martinez's rearguard during the 15-minute period either side of the break during which the game was killed.

Alcaraz, ponderous as he filled Sylvain Distin's shoes, created an opportunity beyond any of Liverpool's expectations and Jagielka cut a desperately uneasy figure, trying to hold the defensive line as 18-year-old John Stones struggled to get back from his high, advanced positions.

There was an inevitability about Gerrard rising to deposit Luis Suarez's corner on the half hour, by which time Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling had threatened from long and close range respectively - Sterling guilty of profligacy with his tame left foot shot from close range.

But the two-minute spell in which Liverpool scored twice more exposed Everton with embarrassing simplicity. Sterling stole possession on the right to instigate the first of the two blows in that period, finding Philippe Coutinho whose clipped ball behind the unresponsive figure of Alcaraz sent Sturridge in to score comfortably, left footed. The third was even more elementary - Toure clipping a ball up and over the Everton defence to Sturridge, who levered it over the advancing Howard.

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Daniel Sturridge dejected despite heroics

Daniel Sturridge somehow managed to sound disappointed with his efforts after scoring twice to lead Liverpool to a 4-0 thrashing of city rivals Everton at Anfield.

The England striker scored two in as many minutes just after the half-hour mark to put Liverpool 3-0 up, but later missed a penalty and was substituted moments after blowing another chance to seal a hat-trick.

Sturridge was visibly upset as he came off but insisted he was frustrated only with himself and not manager Brendan Rodgers for taking him off.

"I apologise for my reaction," he said on BT Sport. "I was disappointed by missing the penalty and felt I'd let myself down as well as the fans. The hat-trick would have been the icing on the cake and it's unfortunate.

"I was disappointed with myself. It was nothing to do with the manager and I'd like to apologise for my reaction if anybody took any offence. It's not about me, it's about the boys and a great victory."

Captain Steven Gerrard, who opened the scoring after 21 minutes, made the decision to hand Sturridge the ball for the penalty as he wanted his team-mate to experience - as he has in the past - a hat-trick against Everton.

"I take responsibility for that," Gerrard said. "I've scored a hat-trick against Everton and I wanted Daniel to experience that feeling. I'm sure the disappointment will see him strive to do better."

Liverpool thoroughly dominated the game against another team challenging for a top-four place, and Gerrard said they had been inspired by a poor performance in their previous home game, a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.

"I think it goes back to Aston Villa," he said. "We let the fans down, we let ourselves down and it was our first bad performance of the season.

"We had to get back to our way of playing and being ruthless at home. Every player to a man today was superb."

The win sees Liverpool move within six points of the top of the table, three points clear in fourth of Tottenham who face Manchester City on Wednesday, and staying in that top four remains the Reds' first priority as they seek a return to the Champions League.

"That's our target and it's been our target since pre-season," Gerrard said. "We've got two world class forwards and against anyone we've got a chance."

Everton looked a long way from the form which has kept them in that same Champions League battle so far as they fell four points off Liverpool's pace.

A night which began with Ross Barkley making an early return from the injury list ended with on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku hobbling off, and Roberto Martinez admitted his side were not up to scratch.

"Our performance wasn't anywhere near our level and that's down to a combination of things," he said.

"In the first half we never really had that intensity you need and there are reasons for that. We have too many injuries, and we're bringing players back maybe a little too early.

"We weren't ourselves - we lost possession, we were exposed too often and we conceded the first goal from a dead-ball situation. The only other time we've done that was against Liverpool at Goodison.

"There were too many things that stopped us being ourselves and allowed us to be so naive and exposed. It was nowhere near our standard and we want to move on from this and learn some quick lessons."

Rodgers insisted there was no problem with Sturridge.

"I think he was frustrated because he didn't get the penalty," he said. "A manager can make substitutions for all sorts of reasons - tactical, a player not playing well, and that certainly wasn't the case tonight.

"I always say, however you feel, keep it to yourself and speak to me the next day. I think he was just a little bit frustrated after a missed penalty."

Asked about the importance of the win, Rodgers added: "It's another three points in terms of where we want to go.

"It's a massive victory over rivals close to us.

"If you look at Everton they've only conceded 11 goals away from home before tonight and for us to get four and to maybe have had a few more is very pleasing."

Rodgers praises Pool after 'massive victory'

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers hailed what he regarded as "a massive victory" for his side over Everton last night.

"It's another three points in terms of where we want to go.

"It's a massive victory over rivals close to us.

"If you look at Everton they've only conceded 11 goals away from home before tonight and for us to get four and to maybe have had a few more is very pleasing."

In contrast, Daniel Sturridge somehow managed to sound disappointed with his efforts despite scoring twice at Anfield.

The England striker scored two in as many minutes just after the half-hour mark to put Liverpool 3-0 up, but later missed a penalty and was substituted moments after blowing another chance to seal a hat-trick.

Sturridge was visibly upset as he came off but insisted he was frustrated only with himself and not manager Brendan Rodgers for taking him off.

"I apologise for my reaction," he said. "I was disappointed by missing the penalty and felt I'd let myself down as well as the fans. The hat-trick would have been the icing on the cake.

"I was disappointed with myself. It was nothing to do with the manager and I'd like to apologise for my reaction if anybody took any offence. It's not about me, it's about the boys and a great victory."

Captain Steven Gerrard, who opened the scoring after 21 minutes, made the decision to hand Sturridge the ball for the penalty as he wanted his team-mate to experience – as he has in the past – a hat-trick against Everton.

"I take responsibility for that," Gerrard said. "I've scored a hat-trick against Everton and I wanted Daniel to experience that feeling.

"I'm sure the disappointment will see him strive to do better."

Liverpool thoroughly dominated the game against another team challenging for a top-four place, and Gerrard said they had been inspired by a poor performance in their previous home game, a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.

"I think it goes back to Aston Villa," he said. "We let the fans down, we let ourselves down and it was our first bad performance of the season at that point.

"We had to get back to our way of playing and being ruthless at home. Every player to a man today was superb."

The win sees Liverpool move within six points of the top of the table, three points clear in fourth of Tottenham who face Manchester City on Wednesday, and staying in that top four remains the Reds' first priority as they seek a return to the Champions League.

"That's our target and it's been our target since pre-season," Gerrard said. "We've got two world class forwards and against anyone we've got a chance."

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