The moment Liverpool surrendered their Premier League title challenge

Everton 2-0 Liverpool: Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s towering header wrapped up a first Merseyside derby win at Goodison Park in almost 14 years as the Reds were all but knocked out of the title race

Richard Jolly
at Goodison Park
Thursday 25 April 2024 07:29 BST
Jurgen Klopp apologises to Liverpool fans after Merseyside derby defeat

So now Jurgen Klopp has another reason why he will not to miss the Merseyside derby. His last trip to Goodison Park was his worst. On a night when Everton had multiple reasons to celebrate, they saw off Klopp with the result that all but secures them a 71st consecutive season of top-flight football and may in effect finish off Liverpool’s title challenge. “You lost the league at Goodison Park,” chorused the Evertonians. Klopp has caused them untold pain over the last eight years. Finally, he was given a taste of how painful Merseyside derbies can be for the losers.

Klopp has seen Sadio Mane and Divock Origi snatch victory in these fixtures. He had to watch Jarrad Branthwaite and Dominic Calvert-Lewin assume the mantle of the heroes of half of a divided city. Klopp spent his final night on the Goodison Park touchline haranguing the fourth official Simon Hooper, a picture of frustration. As Everton’s identity was intensity, a strangely lacklustre Liverpool performance was laced with miskicks and mistakes. This was not the way he had hoped to bade farewell to a rivalry which, while he said he has not enjoyed, he has dominated.

Jurgen Klopp lost at Goodison Park for the first time as Everton dented their title challenge (REUTERS)

This was just Klopp’s second defeat in 19 derbies. A succession of Everton managers have lived and laboured in Klopp’s sizeable shadow but now Sean Dyche finds himself in distinguished company with Carlo Ancelotti as the only ones to beat the German. As the Italian’s victory came in lockdown, Branthwaite’s opener made it the first time a crowd had even seen Everton lead since 2013. Their previous triumph at Goodison was so long ago, in 2010, that one of the scorers may be a title-winning manager now. Mikel Arteta could certainly savour his old club’s long-awaited triumph.

For Klopp, it was a first loss at Goodison. Everton displayed many of the traits the Liverpool manager wants: the fervent commitment, the fast start, the energy to galvanise the crowd. Goodison’s penultimate derby was a raucous affair, Everton attacking with urgency and defending with defiance. For the most part, Liverpool had no answer to them.

Calvert-Lewin punished Liverpool, who were sloppy throughout (Reuters)
Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez missed Liverpool’s best chances in the first half (Reuters)

After 13 matches without a victory, Everton have won three in four. They are improving as Liverpool are regressing. Klopp had restored six of his premier players to the starting 11 but Liverpool played better with the weakened team he fielded at Fulham. They looked cowed: as against Atalanta and Crystal Palace at Anfield, Liverpool suggested their race this season – and under Klopp – is run. They have gone from formidable to fragile, from peaking to losing form, individually and collectively. Not for the first time of late, they were poor in both penalty boxes. In part, that reflected on Darwin Nunez, who squandered a wonderful chance to equalise. An exception may be made for Alisson, whose saves included a brilliant effort to claw away Calvert-Lewin’s close-range header.

Yet his night started with a reprieve after Andrew Madley awarded a penalty to Everton. Calvert-Lewin raced on to Jack Harrison’s delightful pass and was upended by Alisson. If Nottingham Forest felt VAR had intervened too infrequently at Goodison on Sunday, it did here: replays showed the striker was offside.

He was, though, a constant, producing as dynamic a display as he has done in the last couple of injury-hit years. Few get the better of Virgil van Dijk quite as emphatically. He gave Everton an aerial menace, but so did their giant centre-backs as Liverpool were subject to a set-piece bombardment. Pressure eventually told. Alexis Mac Allister, often the coolest of characters, sliced his attempted clearance to Branthwaite. He shot and while Alisson took the pace off it and deflected it on to the post, it rolled over the line, with Calvert-Lewin sliding in to make sure.

A resurgent Calvert-Lewin gave Liverpool problems all night (Reuters)

A resurgent Calvert-Lewin was to get his goal anyway: after a 23-game drought, it was a third in four when he headed in Dwight McNeil’s far-post corner. The winger was excellent, too, marrying expert delivery into the box with harrying of Liverpool. James Tarkowski and Branthwaite excelled at penalty-box defending and, as Everton ended with just 23 per cent of possession, it mattered not; nearly all of the outstanding performers were in blue or, in Jordan Pickford’s case, green.

The goalkeeper made terrific saves when Nunez, with all the goal to aim for, drilled a shot at his thighs, when Luis Diaz volleyed, when Harvey Elliott tried his luck from 20 yards, when Mohamed Salah connected sweetly deep into added time. He was beaten only by the Colombian, curling a shot against the post after an electric surge. But too many of Liverpool’s pivotal performers were poor: Mac Allister was off colour, Salah subdued even when his immediate opponent in the second half was Ashley Young. It felt Klopp raised the white flag when he substituted Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

And on a day when Liverpool moved closer to appointing Klopp’s successor, Everton all but ensured that Arne Slot will not inherit the reigning champions.

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