Liverpool 2-1 Everton Six Things: Van Dijk steals the show

Perfect start for Van Dijk – metro.co.uk

Virgil Van Dijk could not have dreamt of a better Liverpool debut, following his mega-money move from Southampton: he scored a late winner against rivals Everton in front of the Kop to send his new side into Round Four of the FA Cup with a 2-1 victory. Here’s six things from the game.

Everton’s early organization

It is hoped that Van Dijk’s arrival at goal-grabbers Liverpool will help them acquire the art of defending. Everton now know a thing or two about that as they proved in the first half hour, with James McCarthy putting himself about in midfield and Jonjoe Kenny competing well at right-back. Liverpool lacked the invention in the middle third to break them down and Firmino dropped too deep to collect the ball in midfield, meaning nobody was occupying Mason Holgate and Phil Jagielka, who defended with few frills.

Holgate’s hectic moments

Adam Lallana had struggled with the physical side of the game early on, but his tendency to go down easily was what won him the penalty after minimal obstruction from Mason Holgate. James Milner calmly tucked away the resultant 35th-minute spot-kick, sending Jordan Pickford the wrong way. Holgate was unlucky to concede the penalty but he was also fortunate not to be cautioned shortly afterwards, after needlessly shoving Firmino into the stands.

End-to-end spell

The heated melee that followed Holgate and Firmino’s confrontation catalysed a quicker tempo to the game, which assumed more of a derby feel. In an end-to-end second half, the Reds had opportunities with Lallana slotting wide of the near-post when through on goal. That chance was created by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who also took the corner which set up a 53th-minute header from Gomez, but the Charlton academy graduate couldn’t get the direction he was hoping for. At the other end, Dominic Calvert-Lewin had the intelligence to peel off to the back-post when the ball went wide. He challenged Gomez or Robertson, who looked more vulnerable in the air than Joel Matip and Van Dijk, but the finishing touch deserted the energetic forward.

Jagielka’s attacking instincts

There’s something about Everton being 1-0 down at Anfield that sees Phil Jagielka morph into a forward. The centre-back hit an excellent injury-time equalizer back in 14/15 and here, he went on a marauding forward run to set up another leveller. After a winding dribble from lively substitute Ademola Lookman, Jagielka held the ball up to feed Gylfi Sigurdsson, who got to the ball ahead of Emre Can before curling inside the near-post. On this evidence, Big Sam should play Jags up top in the next Merseyside Derby.

Van Dijk’s big moment

The Dutch centre-back had threatened in the opposing penalty area on more than one occasion on the night and grabbed his first goal in a year, having netted in this competition for Southampton at Norwich last January. Another Chamberlain corner bypassed the half-hearted jump from Pickford to find the 26-year-old, who nodded into an empty net to complete a dream debut. Bigger tests of his defensive mettle – and whether he can be the great leader the club requires to challenge for major honours – are yet to come. But, as ways for a Liverpool player to introduce himself to the fans go, this is not a bad one.

Everton’s missed opportunity

Sam Allardyce said pre-match that he didn’t want a replay, but that would have given his side a chance of winning this tie. Everton haven’t tasted victory at Anfield since 1999, but are capable of creating a great atmosphere at Goodison Park and it is easier to imagine them causing problems there. The Toffees are ninth – seven points clear of the drop – and while their performance on Friday evening should not be faulted too much, failure to progress in this competition represents a missed opportunity.