I had to jump into a series of work meeting right after the game ended (which is why this column is late), and was fully anticipating to join those zoom calls with a feeling of dejection that, as a Reds fan, has become my normal state of affairs recently. That it was going to be following a loss to the team from the, uhh, other side of mersey, was only going to make it all the more depressing.
Lemme tell you, I was all smiles instead. So much so that people commented on it.
It wasn’t even just that Liverpool rose to the occasion at the right time. Everton is only second to ManU in being the demon we love to roast on an open fire, after all. But what made it extra special was the manner of the win. Look, I know a lot of people love to hate Sean Dyche, but I’m not one of them; I admire his capacity to consistently turn teams from bags of marshmallow to gritty grinders. Now that I think of it, maybe he should open a pub called Gritty Grinders. But I digress.
Everton had just gotten one over Arteta and his dancing squad of merry men, and they certainly were coming into this game with a renewed confidence. Sure, they still don’t really know how to score, but I bet they will figure it out soon enough. My fear coming into this game was that they would figure it today. After all, Liverpool had been so soft recently, that a determined, Dyche-y squad were bound to tear us apart.
And so, when after a hesitant few moments in the beginning, the Reds suddenly swarmed the midfield, sending two and three men to press the ball relentlessly, I sat back and let out a sigh of relief. Everton are going to do the Dyche thing to many other teams until this season is over, but not to us. Then Tarkowski hit the post in that way that makes you feel like luck is maybe going to run your way again, the Toffees bungled an obvious opportunity like they have been all season, the ball fell to Nunez, and you could hear the jet engine roar to life. It was good ol’ Liverpool all over again. This time Nunez got his head up in time to look – clearly they have been working on this aspect in training – and that’s all it took for Salah to get on the scoresheet. Poor Pickford looked so small and befuddled that I wanted to throw him a lollipop.
The second goal was vintage red, red wine, and ended with an incisive Trent assist to a delighted Gakpo, who finally opened his Anfield account. Not a bad way to put paid to a derby.
Still, it’s important to note that it was the midfield where it all started and ended today. And in the midfield was the one player who stood tall above the rest, my man-of-the-match, Stefan Bajčetić. It’s going to be a PITA to have to copy-and-paste his name onto these columns every time, but the way the kid is playing is nothing short of a miracle. Even Fabinho, whose job Bajčetić is essentially gunning for, seemed inspired by the youngster’s performance, and at some point started to vaguely resemble the way he used to be.
And didn’t it just bring a tear to your eye to have Bobby back on for a few?
The way the league is going this season, string three or four wins together and suddenly top-four seems real again.
Let’s just hope this isn’t another false start.