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Coutinho shows Koeman why Everton fear Liverpool in Merseyside derby mastery

14:50 BST 01/04/2017
HD Liverpool celebrate v Everton
The Brazil international dusted off the rust and put his cape back on to power Liverpool to a 3-1 victory over their neighbours at Anfield


On the eve of the 228th Merseyside derby, Ronald Koeman revealed he’d been informed that Everton headed into the intense, storied fixture over the past two seasons with fear.

“Why you need to be afraid, I don’t understand,” he said, before tasking his men to take the game to Liverpool.

Match report: Liverpool 3-1 Everton

On Saturday afternoon, as torrential rain shifted away from Anfield to be replaced by specs of sunshine, Philippe Coutinho illustrated the reasons for the visitors to be petrified to the 54-year-old.

The Brazilian, who had been off colour since returning from ankle ligament damage in mid-January, starred for his country during the international break and carried that wizardry into this encounter.

Ably assisted by the tirelessness of his countryman, the cerebral Roberto Firmino, as well as the constant threat of Sadio Mane, whom Liverpool will be sweating over following his injury in the second half, Coutinho orchestrated the Reds’ victory.

Klopp makes Merseyside derby history

He dominated in chance creation, take-ons and supply in the final third as the Blues were consigned to their worst-ever sequence of results in the rivalry. They have not managed a win in the last 13 games against their neighbours, which matches the joyless period between 1972-78.

All three of Liverpool’s goals had Coutinho’s fingerprints on them. The 24-year-old’s intelligent run distracted two markers as Mane fired in a scorching opener. He then demonstrated his own trickery in possession, before curling in a jaw-dropping goal to put Liverpool back in front after Matthew Pennington’s equaliser.

And, when Divock Origi blasted in the third, the Belgian had been cleverly set up by the maestro.

"It was a world-class goal, another fantastic finish and he made the pass for Div’s goal," Klopp said of Coutinho's masterclass. 

"He had a really, really good game; really good for us and he was not happy when I took him off.

"I like his desire, but I thought in this game it makes sense that when you’ve already lost one offensive player, you save another one a little bit."

It was not just the perfect fixture for Coutinho to dust off the rust and put his cape back on, but a crucial period too given the injuries to Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and the concern over Mane.

Liverpool’s fourth successive home league win aided their top-four ambitions, but they will need their highest-paid player to continue his ability to conjure something special as well as pull the strings to maintain their drive for a Champions League place.

The forwards were not solely to thank for extending Everton's derby misery; Lucas was immense at the base of midfield. He managed nine tackles, three clearances and as many interceptions. No-one distributed the ball as much as him, and only James Milner had more touches. 

Klopp quiet on Barkley challenge

Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip were steely, with Emre Can also turning in another top performance. The Croatian, in particular, was so dominant in his duels both aerially and otherwise.

"We will fight for everything," said the Reds boss. "I thought the players showed again that they are ready to fight for everything.

"Hopefully we can stay in this optimistic mood and can get there. It’s difficult, of course. So far we have played a really good season, but it’s not finished so we have to carry on."

As with the last home Merseyside derby though, the victory will be dimmed for Klopp - the first Liverpool manager to win his first three league tests against Everton - by an injury casualty.

On that occasion, it was Origi who had to leave the field after a Ramiro Funes Mori reducer. This time, Mane looked to be in serious pain after a tussle with Leighton Baines.

The Reds will hope it is not as bad as it looked for the Senegal international, who has been directly involved in 18 goals for the club since his summer switch from Southampton.

"When I saw him in the dressing room, it didn’t look like he’ll be ready for Wednesday,” Klopp said post-match.

“We will see, hopefully it’s not that serious, but of course it’s not nothing and that makes our life not easier, I would say.

“Obviously he has pain and it didn’t look like it’s only a knock or a muscle or something, but we have to wait. 

“When I came in I was looking for him immediately and I saw him on the bed. He’d already had treatment, and it didn’t look like he felt really comfortable.”

There were thankfully no further injury problems despite some horrid challenges, with Ross Barkley the chief offender.

Klopp had his hands crossed above his head and jumped around the technical area spitting fume after the midfielder’s studs caught Dejan Lovren’s ankle.

Everton failed to funnel their aggression properly and their young squad couldn’t compete with Liverpool’s quality, especially in the attacking third.

The display from the hosts was a fitting end to an afternoon at Anfield that began with a tribute for Ronnie Moran, who passed away on March 22.

A red-and-white mosaic on the Kop formed ‘Bugsy,’ the legend's affectionate nickname, and it was only right for Mr Liverpool to be saluted with a comfortable win.