There may have been stranger ends to a Merseyside derby, but there cannot have been many. The clock had ticked into extra time, Trent Alexander-Arnold had lofted a hopeful ball into the penalty box and Virgil van Dijk hooked a hopeful volley up into the air.
Game over, in effect. This was a stalemate. Or so it seemed. Except the ball dropped perilously out of the Anfield air. Jordan Pickford tipped it on to his bar. And there, unmarked to score his first Liverpool goal for 19 months, was Divock Origi. The Belgian had not even played in the Premier League until December. He had already struck the bar in his brief cameo. It ended with Anfield echoing to the sound of a forgotten man’s name.
That earlier chance was another indication of the difference Van Dijk can make. A commanding presence had won a header in the Everton box, setting up Origi. Yet Jurgen Klopp was also rewarded. He had removed three of his front four, surprisingly sacrificing Mohamed Salah. His last substitute did the damage to extend Everton’s wretched run at Anfield.
They are still to record a win away at Liverpool in the 21st century: a teenage Steven Gerrard was sent off in their most recent victory, and he is now a manager in their own right.
In many ways, Everton illustrated the improvement they have made under Marco Silva and yet a side who drew twice with Liverpool in the Premier League last season recorded a worse result. It means Liverpool have closed the gap to Manchester City to two points. They have only dropped points against the top five but, at the very last, they beat the team in sixth.
It was a game defined by two goalkeepers. Pickford has had a superb 2018, but this was a harrowing moment. Earlier, Alisson had to make the best save amid a few seconds of bedlam. It was a brilliant point-blank save to keep out Andre Gomes’ header.
Yet the sliding Joe Gomez was still required to clear off the line when the rebound struck the midfielder Everton borrowed from Barcelona before Gylfi Sigurdsson struck the outside of the post.
Everton’s Camp Nou contingent showed they could trouble Liverpool in the air. Yerry Mina almost headed the visitors into an early lead. Gomes’ class in possession indicated how he has given Everton another dimension.
Perhaps, with Idrissa Gueye the only defensive midfielder, Gomes was a reason why Everton were overrun initially. Yet as he asserted himself, the visitors showed how ambitious Silva’s blueprint is. Past Everton teams have crossed Stanley Park with an inferiority complex: this one did not.
They nevertheless could have trailed after Liverpool’s early onslaught. Perhaps it was the frantic, frenetic atmosphere of a derby, perhaps a reversion to last year’s more high-tempo approach, but Liverpool began brightly.
They looked more exciting and more exhilarating. While Roberto Firmino’s best form continues to elude him, their forwards were prominent. They were also profligate, with Sadio Mane the culprit in chief.
Liverpool used the Senegalese’s speed to get in behind the Everton defence. Yet his radar proved faulty; when Salah found him, he blazed over. When Firmino slid him through, he shot wide. Later, he curled a shot into the advertising hoardings after being teed up by Salah.
The Egyptian was showing his skills as a creator. When he fed Xherdan Shaqiri who, like Mane, scurried into space outside the Everton centre-backs, Pickford made a fine save to deny the Swiss. It made it a surprise that Klopp sacrificed Salah in the quest for a winner.
Daniel Sturridge was one of those to come on and he supplied a defence-splitting ball for Firmino. The Brazilian’s scuffed finish summed up his recent fortunes in front of goal. Yet when he went off, Origi came on. A surprise appearance had an even more surprising ending as Everton’s Anfield anguish continued.