GOODISON PARK, LIVERPOOL
While the game's usual clutch of goals, chances, controversial refereeing decisions and top goalkeeping saves will be talking points in their own right, it was the performance of substitute left-back Jon Flanagan which deserves a real mention for the Reds.
With Jose Enrique injured and Aly Cissokho not in the match-day squad for the Reds, manager Brendan Rodgers turned to 20-year-old full-back Jon Flanagan to fill in on the left, out of position from his usual right-back slot.
While the young defender had started well in his first few appearances for the first team under Kenny Dalglish in 2011, he has endured two years of injuries and being far removed from the first-team scene, with his own progress not keeping up with that of the starting XI.
It's fair to say that, whether warranted or not, his place in the Liverpool team of late has been greeted with less-than-eager anticipation by some sections of support.
When called upon in the derby, though, he produced a superb defensive display to limit the effectiveness of Kevin Mirallas in the wide areas, covered behind his centre-backs and showed great maturity with his positioning against the threat of the counterattack.
In fairness, Mirallas got the better of him twice in the opening stages; once Flanagan was left stumbling in his wake by the touchline and another occasion saw a weak challenge easily bypassed. The opponent going past on the outside was clearly a problem at that point, but Flanagan composed himself, and went on to be the Reds' best defender on the pitch by some distance.
While Daniel Agger had his hands full with Romelu Lukaku's presence, and largely did exceptionally well, Flanagan was several times responsible for cutting out through-passes down the channels and went through challenge after challenge against the Blues.
Indeed, he made nine and won eight tackles overall—clearly more than anyone else on the pitch, and three times more than any of his own teammates.
Elsewhere, he made three clearances, four interceptions and did not give away a single free-kick, as his defensive resolve and concentration meant he was arguably the Reds' Man of the Match, with only goalkeeper Simon Mignolet as serious competition.
With a relatively sedate run of games coming up, Flanagan could well be a fixture in the starting XI for the next few weeks.
Rodgers is known for letting players earn their place in the team and keeping them there if they continue to show they deserve it.
Flanagan might not yet go on to establish himself as a regular starter in the Red shirt—certainly his attacking contribution will have to increase against lesser threats and atmospheres than Everton provided—but he has at least, once again, shown that he can be a part of the squad to perform a specific role when needed.
The Reds won't achieve their season aims with 11 players; it's got to be a real team effort to get a top-four place, with the manager eking every big performance out of those on the fringes whenever possible.
He did that with Flanagan in the biggest game of the term so far, and Flanagan himself played a part in one of the matches of the season.
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