Connect in the back of the net

Liverpool closed the gap on league leaders Chelsea to six points after a dramatic late winner by Sadio Mane in the Merseyside Derby.

The Senegalese international settled a scrappy battle in the fourth of eight minutes of stoppage time to give the visitors the crucial three points to climb up to second in the Premier League.

Everton’s dismal record against Liverpool continues having failed to beat the Reds since October 2010 as they remain 9th in the table.

What was anticipated as a game that could have had goals galore between two bitter rivals failed to deliver a shot on target in the opening half.

The visitors who are currently the top goalscorers in the league registered their first 1-0 victory of the season.

 

Stalemate at the break

After a cagey start, the hosts threatened with a couple of dangerous crosses but Liverpool’s resurrected first choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet never had anything to be too concerned about.

Liverpool had the best chance of the first half when Nathaniel Clyne’s cut back to the in-form Divock Origi skied an effort over the bar from 7 yards out.

 

Reds come out of the blocks

The visitors took control of proceedings in the second half as they dominated possession and constantly piled the pressure on the hosts.

James Milner’s 40-yard pass bounced into the path of Roberto Firmino who shrugged off Funes Mori but failed to lift the ball over Everton goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

The Dutch ‘keeper was then forced to come off the pitch following a clash with Everton teammate and club captain Leighton Baines.

He was replaced by Joel Robles who was later criticized by Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville for his role in Liverpool’s late winner.

 

Tempers flare

Tempers flared as the game wore on when Ross Barkley was lucky to escape being sent off in the 67th minute following a horrendous challenge on England teammate Jordan Henderson.

The late lunge sparked angry scenes where Everton right back Coleman and Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren confrontationally shoved each other.

Barkley and Coleman were booked following the incident and Barkley later counted his blessings once again after he escaped a second yellow card for time wasting after kicking the ball away when Liverpool were awarded a free-kick.

Robles was called into action shortly after his introduction when Firmino’s volley from a corner required a smart save from the Spaniard.

However, Liverpool continued to press and eventually went on to steal the precious three points.

 

Mane’s the man

Substitute Daniel Sturridge drove at the Everton defence and scuffed an effort off the post.

The £34 million summer signing from Southampton Sadio Mane reacted first to the rebound to fire home from close range.

Robles’ positioning and reaction was scrutinized by pundit Gary Neville as he failed cover enough ground to stop the initial shot by Sturridge.

Gary Neville, who recently caused controversy for his criticism over Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, was mocked by fellow pundit Jamie Carragher who sarcastically claimed it’s not like him to criticise goalkeepers.

The Reds could have doubled their lead late on as Firmino had an effort cleared off the line by Seamus Coleman.

 

The manager’s verdicts

After the game Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said:

“The best thing you can do on a night like this is win and you saw how happy our fans were. I can’t remember one chance for Everton.

“The plan of Everton was wild football. They were chasing us everywhere, it is really difficult to play against this. We couldn’t handle it at first. We will be better at reacting against this in a few months.

“We were much better in the second half, we could have scored earlier but actually I don’t care.”

 

Everton boss Ronald Koeman focused on referee Michael Dean, who officiated his first ever Merseyside derby.

He said:

“If I can say something about the referee. Why did he give Seamus Coleman a yellow and not Dejan Lovern [during the ‘pushing’ incident]? Lovren was already on a yellow.”

He added:

“Barkley, maybe he was lucky. Maybe it’s a red.”

 

Conclusion

The win for Liverpool means they leapfrog Manchester City into second place to keep them in the top two for Christmas and well and truly still in the title race.

 

Written by Conor Lee

Follow Conor on Twitter @cmlivesports

Check out more of his writing via his excellent blog, Live Sports Reports

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