Brendan Rodgers was sacked by Liverpool in the aftermath of a tense 1-1 draw with neighbours Everton at Goodison Park, as the Merseyside derby proved to be his last game in charge.
Liverpool went ahead through Danny Ings approaching half-time, but Romelu Lukaku levelled for the hosts before the break, and the Reds’ hierarchy finally lost patience with their manager after a series of unconvincing performances in this campaign.
Unusually, Everton were favourites going into the game despite not having beaten their city rivals since 2010, as Liverpool – and boss Rodgers in particular – were under huge pressure after a slow start to the Premier League season.
The 225th Merseyside derby did not disappoint in terms of full-blooded action, with encouraging signs coming from both teams in a close-fought encounter. However, there proved to be no match-winning heroes on a day when defensive organisation was key, with Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and Everton captain Phil Jagielka outstanding for their respective clubs.
Liverpool took the game to the Toffees via a string of dangerous attacks during the opening stages and, as early as the third minute, the evergreen Tim Howard had to be at his best to deny James Milner with a well-timed sliding challenge after the Reds’ stand-in skipper had been played through by Philippe Coutinho.
The alarm bells rang again for Everton as Liverpool continued to look lively in attack, and Jagielka was forced to deny both Ings and Daniel Sturridge with last-ditch interceptions.
The atmosphere built as both sides harried and pressed each other and referee Martin Atkinson was doing his best to add fuel to the derby day fire by letting a host of strong challenges go unpunished.
The Blues began to get a foothold in the game, as firstly Mignolet had to react brilliantly to save a diving header from Steven Naismith following Ross Barkley’s free-kick and the Belgian then stopped James McCarthy’s low drive from outside the box.
Liverpool took the lead shortly afterwards as James Milner’s deep corner evaded the invisible Everton rearguard before Ings stole in to head home his second league goal for the Reds on his Merseyside derby debut.
Everton hit back only four minutes later when Gerard Deulofeu’s cross was hacked clear by the volatile Emre Can, but only as far as Lukaku, who volleyed into the bottom corner with accuracy and precision.
Lukaku’s goal on the stroke of half-time gave Everton a real confidence boost and they became the game’s dominant side, but after the restart the match was a tense, cagey affair with little in the way of clear-cut chances.
The Toffees continued in the ascendency as the second half progressed, although what they gave in endeavour they lacked in end product as Liverpool kept the bolt firmly on the door.
While a draw was a suitable outcome that left both sets of supporters reasonably happy, few would have predicted the shocking events which followed later in the afternoon, as Liverpool sacked Rodgers with immediate effect.
The club said in a statement: “Although this has been a difficult decision, we believe it provides us with the best opportunity for success on the pitch.
“Ambition and winning are at the heart of what we want to bring to Liverpool and we believe this change gives us the best opportunity to deliver it. The search for a new manager is underway and we hope to make an appointment in a decisive and timely manner.”