We’re all laughing at Everton. The Blues are the gift that keeps on giving.
What a way to win a Merseyside derby; at the last gasp denying a gallant Everton a deserved share of the spoils and in the process maintaining Liverpool’s relentless pursuit of the league title. The Reds have almost made winning ugly an art form this season and Divock Origi’s 96thminute strike was the ultimate in scrappy deciders to send Anfield wild on a dark December night.
Think about it again. Divock Origi. The lad has hardly played and suddenly he’s the most unlikely hero of the hour. Since a brutish Funes Mori bluenose tackle a couple of years back cut him off in his prime, Origi has been an outcast never seriously considered an option to Jurgen Klopp. This was his moment of vengeance, gloriously smuggling the ball over the line after a farcical intervention by Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal.
What a moment for Divock Origi. The unlikeliest of derby heroes. #LFC
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) December 2, 2018
The joke among Reds’ fans is that Pickford has ludicrously short arms. When Virgil Van Dijk scuffs a desperate volley of frustration high into the glare of the floodlights, the big Dutchman turns his back on proceedings and begins to amble back in disgust at his feeble attempt. We puff out our cheeks and mutter our final expletives. Remarkably though the ball loops and bounces onto the top of the crossbar and Pickford’s vain stretch only serves to divert its path back into play for Origi to nod into the vacant net.
Suddenly there’s mayhem on the Kop. We’re literally rolling in the aisles as those seeking an early dart jostle their way back in to join in with the wild celebrations.
The jubilant Liverpool players converge on Origi, while in the distance there’s the sight of a manic Klopp legging it onto the pitch to embark on a passionate embrace with a luminous Alisson Becker. And, hilariously, the backdrop of a blue smoke bomb set off in a moment of premature glee from the away end, the fumes choking Evertonians not already doused in utter despair.
The sheer cruelty of it all only deepens the joy. Those poor blue souls, who for nigh-on two decades have experienced all manner of Anfield pain, are punished yet again for their remarkable hubris. They had talked themselves up in the preamble to this match in the expectant belief that one day their moment will come but witnessing this bizarre conclusion has consigned them to another bout of soul searching and insecurity delivered by their arch red nemesis. As one banner on the Kop reads, “No wonder you hate us”.
Earlier in the piece, Everton give a good account of themselves. An even first half saw the Blues within inches of taking the lead when Theo Walcott’s cushioned header across goal into the path of the onrushing Andre Gomes only six yards out brings out a fine reflex save from Alisson. The loose ball, rolling towards the net, is only prevented from crossing the line by an heroic slide by Joe Gomez with Gylfi Sigurdsson poised to pounce.
The Reds for their part also miss glaring chances in front of the baying Everton mob at the Anfield Road End. Mohammed Salah chips over the visitors’ resolute back line only for Sadio Mane to blaze over the bar and another Salah pass to meet the run of Xherdan Shaqiri sees the Swiss control adeptly but allow his right-foot stab to be smothered by an alert Pickford who narrows the angle expertly.
Alisson again covers himself in glory just before the break when Walcott is clean through – bearing down on the Kop goal – only for the keeper’s telescopic arm to foil his attempt to round the Brazilian and deflect the ball out for a goal-kick. At half-time the consensus is that we’re still not firing on all cylinders and those sickening derby butterflies make that interval pint hard work.
In the second half, the Reds huff and puff without creating a succession of opportunities. Mane is the man with the greatest thrust throughout and curls two opportunities past the post and as the clock ticks down is only inches away from a bending cross from Andy Robertson. The prospect of denying Liverpool two crucial points is manna from Evertonian heaven and their fans pipe up increasingly as the game enters its death throes.
We have resigned ourselves to a disappointing draw. In our heads there is no greedy helping of Derby glee to be had this time and the dim prospect of a significant gap appearing above us at the top of the table.
But, Everton are conditioned to heartache and despite six derby debutants these poor lads in blue and white contrive to fall in line with history in the most comedic fashion.
The scenes at the end are ecstatic with a beaming Klopp leading his players to celebrate this most unlikely finish right under the roof of an exultant, mocking Kop. Divock Origi’s name blasts out from the stands; his name written into Derby folklore if not for the greatest goal in the latest renewal of this epic family feud but for the sheer drama and sick pleasure of it all.
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