Liverpool beat Everton 2-1 in the FA Cup third round at Anfield. A Virgil Van Dijk winner six minutes from time settled the game for the Reds. It was a scrappy game with tackles flying over and referee allowing physicality to some extent bearing in mind the occasion of the night. We will now analyse the game tactically as to how the teams lined up positionally on the pitch and how did they fare. Here’s The Anfield Talk’s Mizgan (@Mizgans) with the tactical analysis from the 230th Merseyside Derby.
Jurgen Klopp fielded a 4-3-3 formation with Can as a holding midfielder, Milner on the left and Lallana floating behind the number 9 Firmino. Oxlade Chamberlain started on the right side of attack with Mane on the left. The back four had a debut for Van Dijk partnered by Joel Matip flanked by Andrew Robertson and Joe Gomez. Everton, on the other hand, had a compact lineup as you’d expect from a Sam Allardyce team. The formation was 4-4-1-1 with James McCarthy and Schneiderlin in central midfield. Wayne Rooney was playing as a 10 behind Calvert-Lewin. Bolasie started on the right wing, Sigurdsson on the left.
In the early exchanges, the away side were quite prepared to not allow Liverpool have easy possession. Ofcourse, the caution was there in not over-committing, but they were well-organised in a slightly higher line. Rooney instigated few presses from that number 10 position to stop Can have an easy pass from the centre-backs. Liverpool were a bit ponderous in possession with Lallana, Chamberlain and Firmino all too close to each other making similar movements. There was one moment in the first half when Lallana and Chamberlain went for the same man while pressing the Everton build-up. It meant that once the ball did come in a good area, there was no final pass available.
To be fair to the Reds, they continued play in wide areas through their fullbacks trying to stretch the game. The central area was too congested for anything intricate and fast-pace to happen. Once Lallana started to become more assured in first touches, his movements off the ball got better. He then constantly made the run in between centre-back and fullback to drag the defence create space for others. The emergence of the penalty incident arrived when Lallana recieved a pass in between centre-back and fullback, turned inside for a pass or shot and was held down. A perfect example of the Englishman growing into the game.
The first half was a graft overall, Everton started to get frustrated once Liverpool got ahead via Milner’s penalty. There were tackles flying in, pushing and shoving. Tactically, Everton had a plan to anyhow get the ball towards Bolasie and then look to get at the end of his crosses. The fact that Robertson defended well om that side, a clear Everton threat was blocked off by Liverpool.
In the second half, with fear of red card, Allardyce brought Rooney off resulting in Sigurdsson playing as a number 10, probably his favoured position. This is when the Toffees began to look a bit more dangerous in the game. Liverpool missed two good chances with headers to put the game to bed. This allowed Everton to be self-confident of an equaliser coming. With clever movements from Sigurdsson in between the lines, the Reds’ midfield got a bit stretched at times.
The equaliser did eventually come from a counter-attack. There were three phases to this – first is the clearance of the corner from an Everton man fell to his teammate. Second phase is Lookman driving inside in space to exploit the open defence, Jagielka made a very good run to support him. The third phase was an important one, when Jagielka recieved the ball, opportunity to shoot wasn’t there, so he cleverly pulled it back for Sigurdsson who just placed the ball to perfection. Liverpool were just a bit slow in getting back and in the aforementioned third phase, not reactive enough to close down the shot.
This equaliser opened the game up to a different level. Klopp vitally brought Wijnaldum on to provide stability in midfield with Milner struggling. Alexander-Arnold was brought on to match the pace of Lookman against whom Gomez was getting into a muddle. Everton started to believe they could get the win and created chances, not clear cut ones but enough to linger doubts in Liverpool minds. All of a sudden Bolasie began to get more space with Mane not tracking back. However, credit must be given to Liverpool’s shape being solid in a tricky patch. We have seen many a time before, Klopp’s men folding when a goal is scored against them.
Six minutes from time, a good corner delivery and much better finish from Van Dijk sealed the win for Liverpool. This corner had two phases as well, the first was Matip making an across run just ahead of the Dutch defender to put off the Everton defenders. The second phase was all about Jordan Pickford coming off the line to punch the ball and got outdone by Van Dijk’s height and brave header. The keeper got caught in no-man’s land.
Crazy that a game of such high magnitude is decided on small moment mistakes and few good decisions. This is all what local derbies are all about. In addition to it, this was a Cup tie to instill more stakes. A narrow win for Liverpool in the end who now have three 2-1 wins in a row, with the winner scored in 76th, 94th and 84th minute mark respectively in the games, talk about late drama. FA Cup fourth round awaits for Klopp while Allardyce has only the Premier League games to worry about with no cup games left for Everton this season.