Liverpool earned local bragging rights and underlined their top-four Premier League challenge with an impressive 4-0 victory over rivals Everton on Tuesday at Anfield in the 222nd Merseyside derby.
With the result, fourth-placed Liverpool moved onto 46 points, three ahead of Tottenham and four ahead of Everton.
"It was a gamble to go with two strikers but that's the reason we took the risk," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said, per PremierLeague.com. "We got four goals and could've had six or seven. It was a brilliant demonstration of how to play under pressure."
The lopsided result was far from the only bad news for Everton, who saw striker Romelu Lukaku leave the match in the first half with an ankle injury. The club had no news after the match on the extent of the injury, but the Daily Telegraph's Henry Winter reported that Lukaku could have sustained ligament damage in his ankle.
"We're going to assess it," Toffees manager Roberto Martinez said, per Sky Sports. "At the moment he's got his ankle in a cast and it doesn't look too good.
"He just collided with Gareth Barry at the corner as the ball was delivered into the box. It's there where he twisted his ankle."
Rodgers made just one change to his side following the win at Bournemouth on Saturday, bringing in Jon Flanagan for Glen Johnson at right-back.
Martinez made four changes, bringing in Antolin Alcaraz, Ross Barkley, John Stones and Steven Pienaar for Bryan Oviedo (who suffered a broken leg over the weekend), Leon Osman, Seamus Coleman and Sylvain Distin.
"For different reasons we could not maintain the normal intensity. We became exposed and were naive. We gave the ball away far too easily," Martinez said, per PremierLeague.com. "We wanted to perform so well for the fans and we have been terrific all season. We need to bounce back straight away and perform in the manner we did before today."
The teams thrilled supporters and neutrals alike in their 3-3 draw at Goodison Park in November, and the early pace in this one suggested a similar result was possible.
Everton recorded the game's first shot in the second minute as Barkley cut through Liverpool's midfield and blasted narrowly wide from distance. One minute later, Liverpool's Jordan Henderson forced Tim Howard into a save with a low shot. Howard then saved Suarez's shot in the eighth minute, and Henderson shot over from the resulting corner.
The ferocious pace continued, and Liverpool went ahead in the 21st minute. Suarez took a corner on the left, and Gerrard rose highest to power in a header at the near post for a 1-0 Liverpool lead.
If anything, the breakthrough goal only intensified the pace, as both teams continued to attack. Sturridge curled a shot narrowly over the bar in the 27th minute. Everton responded with a pair of shots off target, first through Gareth Barry and then Kevin Mirallas.
But within moments, Everton found themselves trailing by three goals.
Moments after Mirallas' shot, Liverpool charged up the pitch. Philippe Coutinho passed to Sturridge in the middle, and Sturridge finished past Howard to make it 2-0 in the 33rd minute.
Only two minutes later, Sturridge beat Everton's high offside line before chipping past the onrushing Howard for a 3-0 advantage.
Liverpool were well worth their lead at half-time, though it would be unfair on Everton to say the Toffees had performed poorly.
Nonetheless, Everton found themselves further behind in the 50th minute. Pouncing on a mistake by Phil Jagielka near the halfway line, Suarez raced to the edge of Everton's box and finished low past Howard to make it 4-0.
It hardly seemed possible that the situation could deteriorate further for Everton, but Liverpool won a penalty just four minutes later when Howard fouled Raheem Sterling. Fortunately for the Toffees, though, Sturridge sent his spot-kick over the bar.
From that point, Everton appeared content to limit the damage. But while the Toffees kept Liverpool off the scoresheet for the rest of the match, the greatest damage—to their top-four challenge—might have already been done.
Reaction to follow…
|Liverpool Player Ratings vs. Everton|
|Everton Player Ratings vs. Liverpool|
Liverpool play at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Sunday.
Everton host Aston Villa on Saturday.