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Mane the Grinch that stole Everton's Christmas as Liverpool deliver late derby knockout

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 1,325

Pin HD Liverpool celebrate Merseyside derby
HD Liverpool celebrate Merseyside derby

Mane the Grinch that stole Everton's Christmas as Liverpool deliver late derby knockout

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 1,325

Liverpool extended their unbeaten league run against Everton to 12 games as Sadio Mane struck on 94 minutes to settle the encounter

Jurgen Klopp had watched the last Merseyside derby at Goodison Park on television, before being appointed Liverpool manager four days later. His high-definition view this time around came from the technical area, a few steps away from Ronald Koeman, where the acoustics would’ve been a world away from his previous experience as he sampled the famed animosity hanging heavy in the air at this throwback of a ground for the first time.

His introduction to the fixture as Reds boss in April was much more enjoyable; a 4-0 win with Liverpool so commanding, they may as well have been the only team on the pitch.

This time, he had to wait until the 94th minute to punch the air, as Sadio Mane punctured Everton with his speed and reaction to tuck away Daniel Sturridge’s effort that came back off the post. The first victory across the park since October 2011, with the German becoming the only Anfield manager to win his opening two Merseyside bouts.

A first fix of the local rivalry for Koeman and a first defeat then, with the 53-year-old having seen euphoria painted on the face of the matchwinner up close before - but to his benefit at Southampton. They shared an embrace at the final whistle, with the festive cheer was only consumed by those with allegiances to the visiting side.

There was a shower of Santa hats bearing the Everton logo discarded when the goal went in, the freebie handed out by stewards as supporters entered the stadium pre-match while Christmas carols were sung live. 

The merriness quickly morphed into the usual antipathy as kick off for the 227th edition of the showdown approached. 

The first half followed the old-school template for a derby: plenty of throttle and needle, but there was little quality or control in possession.

There were no shots on target from either team, just a solitary corner won by Everton on 43 minutes and no moment when either goalkeeper would’ve felt particularly stretched. The hosts, as expected from their crowd, started hard, fast and fiery. Liverpool matched their aggression and appetite for a tussle, but were without their usual fluency and telepathy between the lines. 

The Reds only enjoyed their first touch in the opponent’s box on 27 minutes, with Gini Wijnaldum firing high and wide to the left after being supplied by Roberto Firmino. 

It was Divock Origi who was presented with the chance of the opening 45 though as Liverpool cut through Everton on the counter. The Belgian forward was fed by Nathaniel Clyne after Mane’s sublime dummy, but he stuck his effort over and too far right from seven yards. 

Despite the limited attacking spells from either side, it was evident that Everton had exerted themselves before the break, without getting the better of Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan, who performed superbly. Liverpool were still only warming up.

That proved beyond doubt at the start of the second stanza, with Liverpool sharper in and out of possession. They had the hosts on the back foot immediately, with Roberto Firmino collecting a ball over the top from James Milner, which he looked to loft over the advancing Maarten Stekelenburg. The stopper could a hand to it, but the move remained live with a scramble in the box involving Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane and Nathaniel Clyne, but neither could apply a finishing touch.

It resulted in a corner that amounted to nothing, but Liverpool were again a nuisance to Everton’s rearguard moments later. Firmino’s flick from Mane’s ball sent the Senegal international through, but Leighton Baines got across to make the block, colliding with Stekelenburg in the process. 

The Dutchman had to be replaced, with Joel Robles deputising. Everton should have suffered another setback shortly afterwards, with Ross Barkley incredibly fortunate to still be on the field after going off his feet and studs up into Jordan Henderson’s ankle. 

There was an overspill of aggression, with Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Seamus Coleman all vulgarly stating their cases in-between some pushing and shoving. 

The Republic of Ireland international and Barkley were both shown yellow as the afters continued in later passages of play.

The game seemed destined to be defined by the face-offs and flaring of tempers, until substitute Sturridge - involved in the matchday squad for the first time since November 19 after nursing a calf complaint, was allowed to rattle off a left-footed shot. It  hit the right post, with Mane pacing in to decide the game and spark different flares - the pyrotechnic turning the air red. 

"It is very important in a game like this, even when it’s a little bit wild as it was in the first half, that you don’t give a chance away – and we didn’t give chances away, I cannot really remember [any]," said Klopp.

"We didn’t have a lot actually, we had our moments and in the second half we had more, [we’re] much better and could have scored earlier. Then Daniel came, hit the post and Sadio finished the situation, so it was great, intense, how a derby should be, not the best football in the world, but you cannot ignore the intensity, you cannot ignore the importance of a game like this, you have to take it like it is. In the second half we took it like it should be.

"I don’t want to be disrespectful so don’t misunderstand, but it was like in the first half we said ‘okay, now we are warm’ because it was not too intense for us and they had a lot to do so they are halfway tired and so when Danny comes in after 70 minutes, it was a real intense game and so then to bring in real fresh legs then, that’s a good thing to do."

The travelling fans started the game taunting Everton about their 21-year barren trophy spell, with a gigantic birthday card and balloons. The party at full time focused on their own charge for silverware and the goalscorer - they bounced and blasted ‘Oh Mane, Mane’ on repeat.

They have not seen Liverpool lose a derby on the last 12 occasions, with the celebrations set to continue long into the night. The knockout in the game may have come late, but Christmas came early.

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