Dubai: A hotly contested match against your city rivals can often produce a surprise result along with spirited performances from several out of form players. It’s a great way to get a poor season back on track but sadly for Everton, that did not happen in the 239th Merseyside derby which Liverpool won 4-1. It was their biggest defeat in a league derby at Goodison Park for 39 years.
Before the match, most were predicting a heavy loss for the out of sorts Toffees and so nobody was surprised when the Reds, in top form, stormed into a 2-0 lead early in the first half with goals from Jordan Henderson and Mo Salah. Demarai Gray pulled one back but a terrible mistake from captain Seamus Coleman allowed Salah to grab his second of the night before Diego Jota put further gloss on the result by getting the fourth.
Everton have now failed to win a single match in their last 8 and have lost 6 of them and the next five fixtures are frightening. Up next are in-form Arsenal and then away matches at Crystal Palace and table-toppers Chelsea. Then, the hapless Blues face a resurgent Leicester City before a physical examination at Burnley and it is hard to see where the next win is coming. They are in serious trouble - but it all started so well. Two months into the new season, the team sat 5th in the table and were just a couple of points off top spot. It appeared the fans had accepted former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez as the new coach and the team was playing some good, attacking football.
But then came a host of injuries and the spine of the team was wiped out. No Yerry Mina at the back, Abdoulaye Doucoure in the middle or Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front. And with a squad short on depth, it’s no wonder Everton have fallen from 5th to now just 5 points off the bottom three. Calvert-Lewin’s absence has been felt the most. The England international had scored in the first three games of the season and was looking sharp before a thigh injury ruled him out and his replacement, Salomón Rondón, looks woefully out of place in the Premier League. The 32-year-old is yet to get off the mark for the club in seven starts and doesn’t look likely to score at all. Benitez has managed the Venezuelan at three clubs and clearly has faith in him but Rondon just isn’t able to lead the line alone anymore. His legs have gone and he won’t be able to readjust to the pace of the league following two years away in China. And surprise, surprise, he also went off injured against Liverpool clutching his hamstring, which means that list is getting bigger by the day.
The derby ended with a chorus of boos and frustration with thousands of fans calling for Benitez to be sacked. He was a controversial appointment for both the Blue and Red half of Merseyside and will need all his experience to turn things around. But he will have to do it fast if he isn’t to become the seventh managerial casualty in Farhad Moshiri’s six years as owner...