Liverpool left it late to win the Merseyside derby against Everton on Monday night, as a Sadio Mané goal deep into stoppage time saw the Reds win the match 1-0 at Goodison Park.
It was far from a straightforward encounter for the Reds, who had to deal with the challenge of an Everton side buoyed by a victory over Arsenal in their previous match for most of the tie. However, a shot by substitute Daniel Sturridge that came off the post fell kindly into the feet of Mané, whose clean effort sent the travelling fans into a state of euphoria and Liverpool to second place in the Premier League.
Here are five things we learned from the derby.
Reds weather the Blue storm
To reiterate, it was a far from straightforward encounter for the Reds.
Everton begun the match with plenty of motivation, attacking with speed and purpose as well as pressing Liverpool high up the field and offering as little space as possible for their city rivals to flow creatively.
That made the Reds’ first half performance a frustrating one, with Jürgen Klopp the first to let his team know about it but given that they firstly allowed Everton no shots on target until the second half, when they secondly recovered, seizing possession and creating chances at will, credit has to be given to the Reds for weathering the Blue storm.
Klavan marshals Lukaku
Given how well he has performed and quickly become one of Liverpool’s most important players in only his first season at the club, Joel Matip’s absence, through an ankle injury, was certainly going to concern many.
In came Ragnar Klavan to replace him then and following an assured display away at Middlesbrough last Wednesday, the summer signing from Augsburg once again proved his reliability, keeping opposing striker Romelu Lukaku at bay.
Heading into the match, the Belgian was always going to be key to most of Everton’s chances but strong, well-read challenges from Klavan did a lot to expose his weaknesses on the night, whilst shining a light on arguably the Estonian’s most important asset: experience.
Centre-back partner Dejan Lovren should also be in line for some praise but when comparisons are made between the number of games the Croatian has played to those of his fellow partner, Klavan certainly deserves more praise.
Barkley is a lucky man
It may not even be viewed as an opinion, but a fact: Ross Barkley was rather fortunate to end the derby still on the pitch.
That is because the Everton midfielder committed a shocking challenge on Reds captain Jordan Henderson, with his studs making clear contact with his fellow countryman’s trailing leg.
Referee Mike Dean brandished only a yellow card for the tackle, with Henderson even revealing after the match that Barkley apologised for the incident.
Sadly, that doesn’t change the fact that the midfielder deserved to be sent off on the night, with Klopp even giving the fourth official a mouthful for it.
Mané’s pace a vital asset
In a game when the opposing side is holding firm a strong defensive line and creative players are struggling to impose their best qualities upon the tie, a bit of pace could go a long way to not only stretching the line but ultimately breaking it.
That is exactly what match-winner Sadio Mané’s pace did for Liverpool on the night.
On the whole, both the Senegalese striker and his teammates were well tracked by their Merseyside counterparts but with the game virtually gone, along with Everton’s energy, one final burst of pace from Mané ensured that he evaded the Toffees defence to reach a loose ball that he placed into the back of the net, winning the game for Liverpool.
That is now eight goals in all competitions for the former Southampton man this season, whose pace once again proved to be a vital asset for the Reds, on a night when he enjoyed his first taste of the Merseyside derby.
Derby win retains momentum for Liverpool
Not only did the victory at Goodison Park send Liverpool back to second in the Premier League, ahead of Manchester City, it restored to the Reds the confidence and momentum they had in the past few months.
That momentum was hampered by an away loss to Bournemouth as well as a disappointing draw at home to West Ham United but back-to-back wins over Middlesbrough and Everton, as well as two accompanying clean sheets, is the best way to bounce back, in what is a jam-packed December in the league.
Manager Klopp will be calling on his side to make that count and with their next two games being at Anfield, the perfect opportunity presents itself yet again for the Reds but that they take it with confidence is a massive positive.