LIVERPOOL, England — Divock Origi came off the bench to make the difference as Liverpool secured a hard-fought 2-0 win over Everton in a feisty Merseyside derby on Sunday to close the gap at the top of the Premier League standings back to one point.
As well as keeping Liverpool in the title chase, a point behind leaders Manchester City, the result left Frank Lampard’s Everton inside the relegation zone, in 18th place, two points behind Burnley, who have played one game more.
After City had opened up a four-point lead over Liverpool at the top with a 5-1 demolition of Watford on Saturday, Jürgen Klopp’s side struggled to break down Everton in a bad-tempered first half at Anfield.
Everton continued to hold their own in a raucous derby atmosphere until, with the first shot on target from either side in the match, Scottish fullback Andy Robertson headed Liverpool in front in the 62nd minute.
Mohamed Salah combined with substitute Origi before floating a cross to Robertson, who headed past the diving Jordan Pickford.
Demarai Gray then went within inches of a stunning equalizer before substitute Origi finally ended all hope of an Everton comeback with a goal five minutes from time to put the game to bed.
Luis Diaz tried a bicycle-kick volley from a Jordan Henderson cross and the ball bounced to Origi, who headed home from close range.
The Belgian, a fringe player for most of his time at Anfield, has now scored six goals in nine Merseyside Premier League clashes.
His introduction with Diaz, when the game was goalless, proved to be a masterstroke by Klopp although Everton felt they should have had a penalty before that change.
The lively Anthony Gordon went down under a challenge from Joel Matip in the 53rd minute but his appeal was waved away by referee Stuart Attwell.
Klopp felt Gordon had no case and should have been booked but was relieved with his side’s second-half improvement.
“Thank God, the game has two halves. We didn’t play particularly well in the first half. They made it uncomfortable but we didn’t get in behind the last line. We didn’t have enough movement,” said the German.
“We weren’t quick enough. We passed the ball into the area where they had nine players. Second half, we were much more direct and caused them much more problems. The goals were wonderful.”
A 12th win in their last 13 league games, moved Liverpool on to 79 points from 33 matches, one behind City, who must slip up if Liverpool are to win back their Premier League crown.
Liverpool faces a Champions League semifinal, first leg, at home to Villarreal on Wednesday.
Everton can take heart from a spirited performance, but their away form leaves them facing a real battle for top-flight survival. The Toffees have lost eight consecutive away matches in all competitions for the first time since 1948.
“The result is (disappointing) but the performance isn’t,” said Lampard. “I’m very pleased and proud of the work ethic. We didn’t get the clinical finishes at 0-0. If we take one of those chances, counterattacking behind their line… I can’t ask for any more of the players.”
Burnley’s 1-0 win over Wolves left Everton in 18th place on 29 points from 32 games with the Clarets on 31 points from 33 games.
“We’ll give everything until the end,” said Lampard. — Reuters