Liverpool humiliated Everton 4-0 and pulled three points clear of Tottenham in the race for fourth. The Reds were lethal on the counter attack, quickly turning Everton turnovers into scoring opportunities. With a thin squad, Brendan Rodgers was forced to play a similar lineup to the one that crumbled against Villa, but saw completely different results. Much of that was due to the relentless ball pressure provided by the frontmen and a willingness by the attackers to drop deeper than usual.
In the opening minutes, it appeared that the match would take a similar path as the 3-3 draw at Goodison -- chaotic, wild, and end to end. While Everton created meaningful chances in the early going, it was always Liverpool with the edge. However, an inability to convert a handful of opportunities in the first twenty minutes suggested that the Reds could be in for a frustrating evening.
That suggestion proved unfounded in the 21st minute, and the deadlock was broken. Steven Gerrard headed a corner kick into the roof of the net as Romelu Lukaku writhed in pain clutching his ankle, and Liverpool never looked back from there. After the Gerrard goal, the rampant Reds found finishes to cap off their flowing moves. Following a frightening Kevin Mirallas effort that crept wide for Everton, Daniel Sturridge hit the Tofees for two goals in rapid succession. Sturridge, who showed in the first half that he is far more than just a finisher, benefited from two superb balls from teammates Philippe Coutinho and Kolo Toure. The second finish from Sturridge, which put Liverpool up 3-0, was magnificent as he chipped his shot perfectly over a hopeless Tim Howard.
The match was essentially finished by the time 45 minutes was up, and Luis Suarez made sure of the victory shortly after the break through a mishap by the Everton defense. Latching onto a misplay at the center circle, Suarez showed surprising pace to keep ahead of Phil Jagielka across half the field, slotting smartly past Howard to finish the play and the game. At 4-0, Sterling broke past the defense once more and won an indisputable penalty after Howard took him down in the area. Interestingly, Gerrard allowed Sturridge to take the penalty so the striker could get a Merseyside Derby hat trick, but the plan failed miserably with Sturridge striking it over the bar.
The attack will rightfully get much of the credit for the win because of their scintillating play throughout the match. It was nice to see Coutinho playing at a high level again and Sterling continuing his emergence in the starting eleven. The defense played well too, and the Toure/Skrtel combo finally evoked order and calm rather than discombobulation. Having a right back that actually produced for once helped the defense immensely, and Cissokho could have been worse (biggest praise he's going to get).
It's hard to put into words the significance of not just the victory but the magnitude of the victory. There was an openly negative feeling leading up to the Derby because of injuries, the Villa match, and transfer inactivity, so it's huge that Rodgers and his players could come out and make such a big statement. The win goes beyond simply picking up points on nearly every other team at the top of the table; after all, this is the Merseyside Derby we're discussing. All the positives for Liverpool are only magnified and sweetened by the blushes of our eternal enemies, the men in blue.
-I like that Martin Kelly is back. I've always been pulling for him, but unfortunately so has his hamstring.
-The look in Gerrard's eyes after scoring the opener was pure awesomeness.
-Any questions about Sturridge's little spat with Suarez and Rodgers was answered in the post match interviews. For people who missed those, the short story is that Sturridge was just mad at himself for missing the penalty and nothing really happened. At least that's what I choose to believe, since Sturridge appeared extremely sincere when talking about the incidents to the media.
-Liverpool get barely any time to celebrate. It's off to the Hawthorns on Sunday and then we get Arsenal at Anfield the following weekend.