LONDON: Everton and Liverpool are joint top of the Premier League table, with only goal difference splitting the Merseyside rivals.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men retained the leadership despite losing 2-0 at Southampton on Sunday.
Everton’s 2-0 defeat ended the Premier League’s last remaining unbeaten record. Gylfi Sigurdsson hit the bar before James Ward-Prowse and Che Adams scored Saints’ goals.
Victory rewarded Saints’ faith in manager Ralph Hassenhuttl exactly one year after the 9-0 thrashing by Leicester.
Danny Ings, one of eight players embarrassed by Leicester last year, made both goals. Everton incurred a second red card in successive games when fullback Lucas Digne was sent off for a foul on Kyle Walker-Peters. Last week Richarlison was sent off in the Merseyside derby.
Meanwhile, Liverpool have started to learn all about life without Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman will miss the rest of the season with the knee ligament injury suffered in the Merseyside derby. He was sorely missed against Sheffield United even if Liverpool did recover from a goal down to win 2-1 in the end.
Liverpool were stretched early in the game by the Blades who took a 13th-minute lead through from Sander Berge after a controversial penalty awarded against stand-in centre-back Fabinho. The Brazilian claimed that his foul on Oli McBurnie had been outside the penalty box but, in or out, the tackle was ill-judged.
Scotland striker McBurnie showed up the champions’ potential weakness in the air without Van Dijk. He missed a close-range change to put United two goals ahead and had another penalty penalty claim rejected before Liverpool regained their champions’ poise. Roberto Firmino equalised four minutes before halftime to end a nine-game run without a goal. Then Diogo Jota headed a 64th-minute winner.
The Portuguese forward was a surprise signing just before the transfer deadline from Wolves but has vindicated manager Jurgen Klopp’s judgment with two goals in consecutive league games at Anfield. Klopp used Jota to change tactics from his usual 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1.
Klopp was pleased with the way it worked and, with Van Dijk absent, was also happy to have Alisson back in goal after fears that the Brazilian would be out for another month with a shoulder injury.
He said: “Adrian did really well but getting Ali back is obviously a pretty big, big boost for all of us. It was nearly three weeks he was out and it feels like we had 15 games in between. I was really happy when he gave the green light and said: ‘Yes, I’m ready’ because it was his decision. I could not decide for him whether he feels pain when he bounces on the ground.”
Liverpool are unbeaten at home for 62 matches in more than three years.