The FA Cup third round weekend started with an entertaining Merseyside derby as Liverpool scored a late winner to beat Everton at Anfield. This was the second meeting of the two clubs in less than a month and it was a more ambitious Toffees’ team as they played higher up the pitch and tried to cause problems for the home side. They did remain well organised at the back, but they were more willing to commit men forward and that made for a good spectacle.
The headlines will be taken by Virgil van Dijk. After a long-protracted transfer saga, the Dutch international finally made his debut for the club and he produced the winning goal to see his new team into the next round. There were a lot of positives to take from the game for Jurgen Klopp as several players put themselves in contention for more game-time. The Reds will want to take this competition seriously and try to secure their first piece of silverware under the German. This was a good start to the campaign. Here are three talking points from Anfield:
Virgil van Dijk was worth the wait
It is too soon to judge the defender, but he has gotten his Liverpool career off to a great start with a very impressive performance. The Dutchman was slotted straight in at centre-back and looked the most composed man on the field for the majority of the match.
It was encouraging to see the rest of the back four look more confident and composed with the new signing alongside them. Andrew Robertson and Joe Gomez both produced excellent performances. The leadership of Van Dijk is already having a visible effect.
The 26-year-old is one of the best at competing in the air and he showed that on his debut as he won five aerial duels. In defence, he looked assured in everything that he did, with three ball recoveries and three clearances to stop Everton attacks. The threat that he poses from set pieces was talked about and it was on show on Friday night. There was a warning for Everton as he came close to scoring before his winner. He has a huge presence in the box and produced the deciding moment as he headed past Jordan Pickford. It was a great debut and gives him something to build on.
Everton need to spend money this month
During the match, Everton announced the signing of Cenk Tosun and they will need to provide Sam Allardyce with more signings if they are to re-establish themselves as a threat to the top six. They may have been willing to commit more men forward, but they didn’t cause Liverpool with a lot of problems. The visitors managed only four shots during the entire game.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was a willing runner and showed good pace, but there was too much being asked of him. Wayne Rooney was more interested in showing passion than playing football and Yannick Bolasie didn’t look fit. The Everton attack lacked ideas and quality. The options on the bench showed the lack of quality in the squad and why they’ve regressed during the last 12 months. Ademola Lookman is a talent, but he is unlikely to change a game against Liverpool.
Even the defence showed the problems that Allardyce has inherited, as Jonjoe Kenny and Mason Holgate showed their inexperience at times. The latter was lucky to stay on the field after an incident with Roberto Firmino. The young players at the club have all showed their talent in recent weeks, but it is clear they need more established talent. Tosun is a good start, but more have to follow.
Andrew Robertson is the long-term solution at left-back for Liverpool
The headlines will be taken by Virgil van Dijk and rightly so after a great debut. However, it could be argued that the man of the match was Andrew Robertson. The left-back arrived under the radar after the relegation of Hull City, but he could prove to be one of the shrewdest transfers made by the club in recent history.
He was excellent at the back today and seemed to benefit from playing alongside Virgil van Dijk. The left-back completed six tackles and made four clearances. Robertson won the battle with Yannick Bolasie and was playing like a seasoned professional. He never looked flustered and his decision making was flawless all night.
Robertson was signed for his attacking quality and that was on show against Everton. He whipped in a couple of excellent crosses and came close to scoring as his shot was well saved by Pickford. The movement to get into the final third was very impressive and showed the intelligence that he already possesses at the age of 23. Liverpool need to nurture his talent and develop him into a leading Premier League left-back. This performance showed that he has it in his locker.