The nightmare scenario happened for the home supporters and it was far more searing than they could’ve ever envisioned. There were 21 minutes on the clock when Rafael Benitez had his name sung at Goodison Park as Everton manager for the first time, but the 2,902 voices belonged to Liverpool’s gloating section.
The scoreboard read to the title contenders then. The Spaniard would be serenaded by more chants when his team had two more goals smashed past them to compound their overwhelming misery of an eight match winless run.
To contextualise that further, they have collected two points from the last 24 available so it was unsurprising that boos coloured the final whistle.
Everton didn’t need to wait long to have a lens into how their evening would disintegrate. The game was all of 35 seconds old when Seamus Coleman rollicked Jordan Pickford for failing to claim the ball he was trying to block Sadio Mane from in the box.
The goalkeeper hesitated, affording Liverpool a corner that an unchallenged Joel Matip should have converted from but headed wide.
The kindest thing to say about the hosts in the opening stanza was at least they held out for nine minutes amid an attacking storm from Jurgen Klopp’s men that had a distinct feel of settling a score.
Liverpool were relentless with Mane and Mohamed Salah also going close before Jordan Henderson’s left foot steered the scoreline towards torture for Everton.
Mane slipped Andy Robertson in, who cut back to his onrushing captain. Henderson casually opened up his body and caressed the ball into the top left without Pickford able to intervene.
Liverpool should have been in their slippers already at that point having carved out four clear chances, but it was fine with Everton playing possum.
Perhaps the poorest period endured by Benitez’s side was sparked with a slew of boos for Virgil van Dijk, who suffered a season-ending injury due to Pickford’s recklessness on this ground last October.
That made no sense and revenge was served in the form of a dismemberment of Everton’s off-the-ball ambitions with Thiago gaining possession and supplying Henderson. The England midfielder dispatched Salah clear down the inside right and he shuffled into the box, set himself and sent a sweet curled shot across Pickford and into the top corner.
That was minute 19, and 60 seconds later there were already home fans funnelling through the exit. Everton were struggling, which extended beyond the pitch with the attempts by fans to unfurl a banner protesting against the club’s hierarchy not materialising quite smoothly.
Then there was that chant, gleefully sung by the away end.
But out of nowhere, they had a slice of hope. Richarlison bent a pass infield for Demarai Gray, who took a lovely touch, sped past Trent Alexander-Arnold and drew in Alisson before sliding a shot under the goalkeeper.
Liverpool’s game management at 2-0 was again in question. Everton were ignited by that strike and offered more after the break, but a series of their own offensive attempts culminated in the visitors’ third of the night.
Liverpool cleared a corner and Gray played the loose ball to Coleman on the halfway line. He dithered while considering whether to hoof it, which allowed Salah to sneak in and swiftly gear away.
The best player in the world at the moment held off the Killybegs native, attracted Pickford out and shot across him into the bottom right in super slow motion.
The final act was Robertson delivering a pass down the left channel for Diogo Jota, who effortlessly spun Allan in the box and blasted to beat Pickford at his near post.
Benitez’s name rung loud and proud. The Everton board, meanwhile, were met with angst, no shortage of sweary words and cries of “sack them all, get out of our club”.
Bill Kenwright and Marcel Brands were particularly targeted on a night when their problems morphed into full-blown crisis.
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