Sadio Mane’s stoppage-time winner ensures Liverpool keep the pressure on Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table as they snatched a late 1-0 victory against Everton at Goodison Park.
The highly-anticipated Merseyside Derby looked to be petering towards an underwhelming finale, but with minutes to spare the Senegalese winger gambled and reacted fastest to a Daniel Sturridge shot that hit the post and stabbed his team ahead in the dying embers.
The win for Liverpool takes them up to 37 points in the league, leapfrogging Manchester City, with Chelsea occupying top spot on 43. For Everton, who had looked to be holding out for a point, the defeat will be particularly tough to take.
The blue half of Merseyside will have been hoping for an early Christmas present coming into the game, as they looked to end their six-year wait for a win against their bitter rivals, but it was Jurgen Klopp’s side that came out on top under the lights – handing Everton their first home defeat of the season.
The game felt much more like the derbies of old. A hostile setting, messy football and clusters of strong tackles. The number eight on Ross Barkley’s shirt was torn very early on and he was later lucky to stay on the pitch as passions raged.
Klopp’s team struggled to settle into their usual attacking game and Everton started the stronger. Every loose ball was pursued by an Everton man for the first half-hour, but the home side struggled to translate such supremacy into clear-cut chances.
After a half devoid of goal-scoring opportunities, Ronald Koeman was dealt with a huge blow. James McCarthy’s recent injury woes continued following a hamstring strain, and he was replaced at half-time by Gareth Barry.
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The Toffees needed to use yet another substitute in the 63rd minute, after a coming together between Maarten Stekelenburg and Leighton Baines in a challenge with Mane. The goalkeeper limped off, with Joel Robles his replacement.
Roberto Firmino came very close for Liverpool when the game entered the final ten minutes, as his close-range strike was turned away impressively by substitute Robles.
The fourth official signalled eight additional minutes of stoppage time and the visitors pressed on. Mane was the man who made the difference as he ensured a valuable three points for Liverpool after the newly-introduced Sturridge’s left-footed shot bounced off the post and fell to the speedy winger, who won it at the death.
Some excellent defensive positioning from Seamus Coleman denied the Reds a second late on, as he plunged to sweep Firmino’s shot off the line, but Everton had no time to respond.
Liverpool manager Klopp told BBC Sport: “You have to adapt to Everton’s wild game. A game like this you have to interrupt their rhythm with passing. In the second half it was clear they couldn’t do the same – we were better. We didn’t give one chance away I think.”
Speaking about the goal and subsequent pyrotechnic celebrations, Klopp added: “It was not the hardest shot from Sturridge but hard enough. Wonderful feeling. Really, really good. I don’t like the flares too much. I’m a little bit scared about this. It was a long, long stoppage time. We gave them no chance.”
Dejected Everton counterpart Koeman said: “We are really disappointed to concede in extra time. The eight minutes killed us. In the second half we had problems to stop Liverpool. I know exactly how fast Sadio Mane is, he reacted so well. We did not deserve to concede this goal.”