It was an evening that was almost written in the stars at Anfield on Friday as Liverpool advanced into the 4th round of the FA Cup with a dramatic 2-1 win over Merseyside rivals Everton. The winner, of course, was scored by £75m record signing Virgil Van Dijk in the 84th minute after Gylfi Sigurdsson’s equaliser to cancel out James Milner’s first half penalty almost forced the tie into a replay.
The game was preceded by endless speculation about the future of Phillipe Coutinho and Emre Can with the former unavailable through injury for today’s game. The game itself could definitely have used some of Coutinho and the also injured Mohamed Salah’s defence unlocking attributes with the play average at best and incredibly scrappy at worst. The breakthrough did come from the Reds in the form of a (slightly soft) penalty that was given away when Mason Holgate put his hands on Adam Lallana who went down accordingly. James Milner, Mr Reliable when it comes to penalties, calmly scored the penalty when almost all Liverpool fans in Anfield and at home were on edge. You could say this was balancing the scales after Everton were given a very soft penalty in the 1-1 draw between the two sides in the Premier League game back in early December.
Liverpool seemed to dominate possession for most of the game and their constant chasing of the ball seemed to get on some Everton players’ nerves. Wayne Rooney could have faced an early dismissal after his late challenge on Joe Gomez but the first big argument in the game came after Roberto Firmino won the ball back and Mason Holgate took offence to it. The young defender then subsequently pushed Firmino over the advertisement boardings and into the crowd. The Brazilian, luckily unharmed, leapt from the crowd to confront the Everton player. Words were exchange, during which Holgate lost all semblance of calm and actually pulled the referee back to get his attention. There were murmurs of offensive language but nothing was done and with the referee being inches away from both players then we can assume nothing was said, especially as the Everton players themselves seemed more intent on getting Holgate away from the situation than they were angry at Firmino. No card was shown to anyone and the situation passed.
The second half was much the same as the first with Liverpool having more of the ball and more chances to extend the lead. It was Everton that ended up getting the next goal however as an awful Liverpool corner was pounced upon and a counter attack lead by Ademola Lookman and Phil Jagielka ended in a very well placed Sigurdsson shot finding the bottom corner. It was actually a goal that we haven’t conceded a lot of this season but still exceedingly annoying nonetheless. It looked like the game might be going to a very inconvenient (for both teams) replay. Destiny works in mysterious ways however and there was one last twist in the tale.
Gini Wijnaldum, Dominic Solanke and Trent Alexander-Arnold were the substitutes made by Jurgen Klopp (on for Adam Lallana, Joe Gomez and James Milner). Trent was responsible for the fateful cross that lead to a dream debut goal for Virgil Van Dijk who rose higher than both Jordan Pickford and Jagielka to put the ball into the back of the net. The big Dutchman raced away, patting his chest (maybe even the badge) as he was swamped by both his teammates and the adulation of the Anfield crowd. It was enough to send Klopp’s team into the next round of the FA Cup and extend our unbeaten run at home against our neighbours.
A good night all round, a nice break now for us to get Salah and (lol) Coutinho back for the game against league leaders Manchester City next time. Onwards Reds!