For the second time in a week, a Liverpool centre-back rose to meet the ball and headed it into the net to clinch a crucial winner.
James Milner gave the hosts a lead from the penalty spot after Mason Holgate’s outstretched arms impeded Adam Lallana’s run into the box. It may not have been a stonewall penalty call but contact was involved just as in the case of Dejan Lovren during the league fixture back in December.
Past the hour mark, Yannick Bolasie and Gylfi Sigurdsson linked up beautifully to bring the Blues level, courtesy of a counterattack.
The Reds left it late as on New Year’s Day; six minutes before the end of regulation time, Virgil van Dijk scored a well-timed header to give Liverpool the lead which sends them into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
READ MORE: Liverpool 2-1 Everton: Player Ratings
Virgil van Dijk makes dream debut
Liverpool paid £75m to Southampton, finally signing van Dijk on the opening day of the winter transfer window and making him the world’s most expensive defender (so far).
The Dutchman was handed his debut by Jürgen Klopp in a high-stakes Merseyside derby at Anfield and he could not have been vindicated in better style.
The ex-Southampton captain had a solid showing in central defence, winning headers and generally marshalling the troops at the back. He was vocal and aware, a calm presence and aside of being beaten by Bolasie on one occasion, looked imperious.
What proved to be the stuff of dreams is the debutante’s header just six minutes before the end of normal time.
The number 4 did come close earlier but missed the killer touch. However on this occasion, he made no mistake, latching on to a corner perfectly and getting his head to the ball.
It thumped the bottom corner of the net, out of Pickford’s reach and Liverpool had their winning goal.
A dream debut for the defender after a protracted summer saga, and what a game to mark scoring in – the derby! This man will be regarded a hero in the times to come.
Holgate escapes booking despite a double push on Firmino
Slightly after the 30-minute mark, Mason Holgate’s arm caught Adam Lallana at the edge of the box and sent him tumbling, contact which was deemed enough to warrant a spot kick by referee Robert Madley. The Evertonian did not receive any warning or caution for said offence, which was not read much into, at the time.
Minutes later, the English youngster charged at Roberto Firmino with a double push, purely out of frustration. This was the highlight of a charged and feisty first half, at the onset of which Wayne Rooney had received a yellow for lunging at Joe Gomez with both feet.
Firmino nicked the ball from Holgate during a Liverpool attack with a clever touch and a good run.
The Everton defender caught the Brazilian from behind – at first with a light push, and then another heavier one that sent Firmino tumbling into the advertising hoardings and by extension, the stands.
The Reds number 9 did not take to the incident kindly and came charging back onto the pitch. He was kept well in check (before doing something rash) by Lallana as well as the referee.
However, Bobby Madley saw it fair to let the game take its course without booking either or both of Holgate and Firmino. It remains a mystery how an unnecessary provocative push was not cautioned off, no matter how much leeway was allowed in the ‘spirit of a derby’.
Robertson shines; Gomez excels especially in the first half
Andrew Robertson had to bide his time before making an appearance for Liverpool and when he did, was flawless. He was, however, on the sidelines/bench again thereafter, thanks to a resurgent Alberto Moreno owning the left back position.
Moreno’s injury allowed a glimpse of a chance for the young Scot; suffice to say, he has grabbed it with both hands.
The former Hull City player did not put a foot wrong on this occasion. He was also by far, the best Reds player over the course of 90 minutes.
Robertson did not have the easiest of jobs, dealing with the speed of Bolasie as well as a new partner on the left in van Dijk. However, he matched the Frenchman’s pace and defended superbly time and again.
The Scot also coordinated well with van Dijk and made threatening runs up the left flank. One of his crossed was particularly inviting and sumptuously perfect – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could have done better with the attempted header.
Joe Gomez lived up to his full-back partner’s billing during the entirety of the first half. In the second half, as the game wore on and the Reds needed to shore up, he came up a bit short.
It must be remembered though, that he is only 20 years old and has clocked up a wealth of first team experience; the consistency in imperiousness will come.
Lallana needs time to rediscover form
After more than six months out due to multiple injuries and setbacks thereafter, Adam Lallana started his second game within a week, the first coming against Burnley at the Turf Moor.
The Reds number 20 fared quite well on Monday but had a difficult outing against Everton tonight. He looked a yard off in a game that was played at a frenetic pace for the most part.
With Liverpool 1-0 up and still going hard for their second goal, much of the team was caught up the field ahead of the Blues counterattack.
The midfielder tried to tackle and get the ball but did not get near it; Bolasie then went on to assist Sigurdsson to score and equalize.
Were it not for van Dijk’s winner, Liverpool would have had to face the prospect of a replay, something Klopp will be keen to avoid going further in the competition as well.
Lallana’s first touch and passing accuracy were not at usual levels and he will need more minutes before getting back to full fitness and momentum.
It was only his second start in a long while though, and he must be given due consideration. The home fans sung his name loud enough to reassure him of their backing.
READ MORE: Liverpool 2-1 Everton: The best photos
Bouncing Anfield gets its reward
Ahead of the derby, the Reds manager spoke in glowing terms of the Anfield atmosphere against Leicester as well as the atmosphere provided by the travelling fans at Turf Moor.
Klopp’s words were absorbed and lived up to, in full measure tonight. Not that Anfield needed any special encouragement on Merseyside derby night though!
The stadium was up and bouncing for the best part of the game, cheering on every Liverpool attack and tackle, and jeering every flawed Everton move.
The crowd also completely got behind Firmino during the Holgate push incident; you would not have dared to strike a match in the air then, for it was that charged and electric.
A temporary disappointment came in the way of the visitors’ equalising goal but Virgil van Dink’s dream debut more than salvaged it for the home supporters on the night.
Their patience, chants and backing was suitably rewarded with a win, as the Reds head into round four.