[Liverpool 2 – 0 Everton].
Sean Dyche came to this game with a perfect plan and his team executed it extremely well, all considered. Think about it: how better to catch Liverpool unprepared than to fail to score first, and then go a man down before half-time? This brilliant tactic left the Reds clearly confused, until Klopp shook things up, removed the possibility of any left-sided Liverpool defender seeing the turf, and moved to a 3-2-5 formation that almost guaranteed a penalty. After all, when you stack the box with 11 players (Everton was effectively playing a 6-2-1 at that point), in this world of VAR, something is bound to happen.
Salah added two to his tally today, which I believe that combined with assists – for total goal involvements – makes it his best season-opening through nine games in the premier league to date (I’m not a statistician, so don’t hold me to it). Not too shabby for the Egyptian who has been written off this summer as a has-been by many. Then again, he always was a one-season wonder… just, you know, a really, really long season. This is why Liverpool wouldn’t sell him no matter the price, and if the team clinches a title or three this year, they will inevitably have Salah’s face etched all over the trophies.
It’s worth mentioning that Nunez’s assist for Mo’s second was a peach. Nunez’s improvement this summer in the way he sees the game and makes his choices is impressive; all credit to the coaching staff at Kirkby. He is a lot less selfish, the chaos he creates now tends to favor his teammates more than his opponents, and that really does create loads of positive chances. Another player worth mentioning is Harvey Elliott, who came onto the pitch with a belly full of fire, proceeding to scorch any player in blue who came within breathing distance.
As for a man-of-the-match… this is where I sadly have to concede that this game was pretty boring, as far as derbies go. Szoboszlai did notably well, as did Van Dijk (and later Matip off the bench), but for me, it was Luis Diaz who put in the most noteworthy effort. It was he who was mostly responsible for the ultimate ejection of Ashley Young, for one thing; not just with that final yellow, but the way he harassed the veteran (in a footballing sense) from the first minute. Diaz created much of Liverpool’s positive movement in the neutered first half, and in the context of the effort he put in on international duty a few days ago, he was excellent.
Almost unimaginably, Craig Pawson and VAR deserve a good word, too. I realize that Toffee fans will vehemently disagree, but we are due some close calls (which describes both the second yellow and the penalty) falling our way. Overall, Pawson controlled the game well and hardly made a wrong call, even minor ones. Perhaps this was due to the game being so quiet, but he had a couple of opportunities to inflame the players and the crowd. He gracefully and thankfully declined.
Top of the league after nine games, even temporarily, is not something many people would have called before this season opened. Considering that the Reds were robbed by referees of at least three points in the aggregate so far, it’s pretty remarkable.
I’m afraid to say it, but It also no longer feels like a fluke.