Ronald Koeman’s surprise team selection
With Everton defenders and first-team regulars Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori both sidelined until the end of the season after picking up respective injuries during the international break, the big question ahead of kick-off at Anfield was what Ronald Koeman would do with his defence.
With the experienced Phil Jagielka expected to slot in alongside Ashley Williams in the middle and young Mason Holgate replacing Coleman in a back-four, Everton boss Koeman instead chose to take a huge risk by implementing a back three – with Matthew Pennington given his first start of the year.
The 22-year-old defender had previously only made four appearances for Everton – all last season – and the decision to start him against a rampant Liverpool attack was undeniably a bold one.
Little could Pennington have known the rollercoaster of emotions he would experience at Anfield as frustration turned to joy and back to frustration in the space of 30 first half minutes; the adrenaline of his first ever goal for Everton, scored in front of The Kop, was sandwiched between goals from Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho, both of which came at the expense of ropey defending from him.
His lack of footballing maturity and lack of game-time at the top level showed, allowing Coutinho to cut inside onto his right foot too often and committing too early to a tackle.
It was a big gamble from Koeman to include the youngster in his starting eleven, especially for such a monumental clash, and it’s fair to say that it simply didn’t pay off for the Dutchman on the day.