LONDON: Liverpool have yet another trophy in their sights. In the first half of the season they won the FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup and reached the knockout stage of the Champions League. Now, while holding a 13-point lead in the Premier League they are up and running in the FA Cup as well.
A superb goal from teenage midfielder Curtis Jones led the Reds to a 1:0 victory over Everton which meant they had eliminated their neighbours for the second time in three seasons. The manner of victory also demonstrated the high quality of the academy graduates available to Klopp in what will be a busy spring.
Klopp has thus matched the record of Bob Paisley in remaining unbeaten in his first 10 Merseyside derbies. Not since 1937 had Liverpool won four successive games against Everton. The Toffees have not beaten Liverpool since 2010 and have not won at Anfield since September 1999.
This was the 25th meeting of the Merseyside rivals in the FA Cup, making it the competition’s most-played fixture.
The 33-point disparity between the teams in the Premier League doubtless helped persuade Klopp he could afford to make nine changes from the team who beat Sheffield United in the Premier League in midweek. An effective reserve team saw a debut in attack for Takumi Minamoni. Liverpool’s first Japanese player joined only on Wednesday after a £7.25m move from RB Salzburg.
Liverpool suffered an early setback when injury forced the substitution of James Milner, one of a handful of senior starters, the day after his 34th birthday.
Everton lost 5-2 at Liverpool in what had been Marco Silva’s last match as manager but put on a much-improved display. Gylfi Sigurdsson was creatively busy in midfield.
They could have scored three times in the first halfhour through Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Mason Holgate and Richarlison but the reflexes of Liverpool keeper Adrian and hasty finishing let them down before Adam Lallana nearly headed into his own goal.
Unusually Liverpool were attacking the Kop in the first half. They went closest to an opening goal only shortly before halftime. Everton’s England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was forced into an excellent first save of the match from Divock Origi.
Klopp appeared to have had some sharp words for his team at the interval. They displayed notably greater aggression and intent from the start of the second half and s shot from rightback Neco Williams brought a scrambling save out of Pickford.
Liverpool gained due reward in the 71st minute when academy graduate Curtis Jones fired them ahead after an exchange of passes with Origi. It was a first senior goal for the local boy who has played for England at u-16, u-17, u-18 and u-19 levels. This was only his fifth appearance for the senior team and he has yet to make his first start in the Premier League.
Wayne Rooney made his presence felt on his return from MLS. England’s record goalscorer played in central midfield to lead Derby from the second tie to a 1-0 win at Premier League Crystal Palace.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, the one-time FC Bayern target, scored one goal and made another for Ross Barkley as Chelsea beat Nottingham Forest 2-0. England winger Hudson-Odoi was thus rewarded for putting in extra homework during the week, studying videos of his performances this season in search of improvement.
Jose Mourinho can still fulfil his initial target of leading Tottenham to a trophy after five blank years under Mauricio Pochettino. A second-half goal from Lucas Moura rescued a 1-1 draw at second division Middlesbrough after Spurs had fallen behind for the eighth time in 12 games under Mourinho.
** Manchester United will be without Paul Pogba for a high-pressure sequence of eight games in 25 days. The France midfielder made two substitute appearances over the holiday programme but a new ankle injury has ruled him out for a month. United’s fixtures crisis was exacerbated by the need for a replay after a 0-0 FA Cup draw with Wolves.