The contrast could not have been greater, the hero more unlikely.
As Jordan Pickford, ashen-faced, mortified, barely-believing, offered an apologetic hand to the devastated Evertonians packed inside the Anfield Road end, the rest of this famous old stadium paid tribute to its matchwinner.
“Divock Origi!” rang the chant from the Kop. It’s been a long time since that was heard, eh?
The Belgian’s goal, pilfered from a horrified Pickford in the sixth minute of stoppage time, sent Anfield into delirium. Limbs everywhere, pyrotechnics let off, Jurgen Klopp making a 40-yard dash to celebrate with Alisson Becker, his goalkeeper. At the final whistle, as his team celebrated on the pitch, the Liverpool boss bellowed a message down the lens of a nearby TV camera. It was that kind of day, that kind of win. A typical Klopp win, you could say; dramatic, thrilling, emotional.
The short and the long of it is as follows; the win extends the Reds’ unbeaten start to the Premier League season to 14 games, and keeps them just two points behind Manchester City at the top of the table. As three points go, these were precious.
But days like this are about more than three points. We know that. Klopp knows that. Those who came clad in red and blue know that. How this will hurt Everton, whose wait for a Merseyside derby victory goes on. It’s a record 16 games now; they haven’t won at Anfield since 1999. "Lucky, lucky, lucky Liverpool," said Marco Silva in his post-match press conference.
As for Origi, he must have wondered if this feeling would ever come again. It had been 19 months since his last Liverpool goal, 20 since his last here. This was his first Premier League outing since the opening day of last season. He’s been to Wolfsburg and he could have gone to Wolves. His form has dipped and his name has been forgotten. And yet here, three years to the day since his best performance in a red shirt, a League Cup hat-trick at Southampton, came his most significant moment. His 22nd Liverpool strike was the sweetest of all. "It was a special moment," smiled the striker. "I think I am enjoying it!"
For every hero there is a villain, of course, and in the midst of the celebrations it was hard not to feel for Pickford. The England goalkeeper will have nightmares about his role in the goal. As Virgil van Dijk miscued a volley into the December sky, there appeared no danger, but Pickford made a hash of his attempt to claim it, dropping the ball against the bar and onto Origi’s gleeful head. He’s a strong character, the Everton goalkeeper, but he’ll need every ounce of it to bounce back. This was horrendous. Credit to him for fronting up and speaking to reporters as he walked through the mixed zone a half hour or so after the final whistle. "I just want to say sorry to the Everton supporters," he said. They'll forgive him.
It had, to that point, appeared that this would be a game decided by goalkeepers in a rather different kind of manner, with Alisson making crucial first-half saves from Andre Gomes and Theo Walcott, and Pickford alert to deny Xherdan Shaqiri at the other end. Origi, you feared, had already missed his big moment, hammering against the woodwork from a couple of yards out when it appeared easier to score.
This was, for once, an absorbing Anfield derby, with Everton doing their bit to make it a spectacle. The Blues, too often, have travelled across Stanley Park with fear and negativity in their kitbag, but Marco Silva’s side came to play here and deserve credit for their display. They had excellent performers in Gomes, Lucas Digne and Michael Keane, and played with composure, nous and threat.
Liverpool, meanwhile, bounced back from their midweek humbling in Paris to record this most precious of victories. The Reds are still short of fluency, but not heart. Klopp’s men were rewarded for their perseverance here, albeit in the most bizarre of fashions. What do they say; sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
Such are the margins at the top end of the Premier League, though. City’s win over Bournemouth on Saturday had piled the pressure on this game, and if a draw may have been a fair result in the grand scheme of things, it would certainly have represented two points dropped for the Reds. Instead, they go to Burnley in midweek with renewed confidence. They could be top by Wednesday night, with City in action at Watford.
They were far from perfect here, sure. Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah struggled and were substituted, Shaqiri fluffed his lines and Sadio Mane was everywhere and nowhere. Their attack, so devastating last season, continues to blow hot and cold. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Klopp looked to his bench and rolled the dice.
And Liverpool’s forgotten man ensured he’ll be remembered forever.