Against Aston Villa two weeks ago it seemed Liverpool’s recent form had gone to their heads.
Going into the fixture on the back of a three game unbeaten run, confidence was high and playing at home the expectation was nothing short of three points. After ninety-minutes, however, the whole mood around the team changed.
Salvaging a point from a seemingly helpless position at 2-0 down was a positive but that was the only one taken from the game going into the FA Cup 4th at Bournemouth, where a rugged performance saw us through.
In the space of two games the confident nature around the team, from the outside at least, seemed to have disappeared, putting us into a worrying situation before the biggest Merseyside derby in years.
The temptation to throw down your intent, for far beyond the derby, would have been strong in Brendan Rodgers to go all-out attack, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Everton to give the impression of dominance against our neighbours. It’s credit to Rodgers that this wasn’t his plan of attack.
Giving Everton, a team who have won at Old Trafford and more than held their own at The Emirates, the respect they deserve factored into his game plan. Allowing them to have the ball and then hassling them, forcing them into mistakes and counter-attacking at lightening pace caught the Blues unawares as we shot into a 3-0 lead before half-time.
The pace that exists in our side meant this plan was tailor-made for us but the discipline executed by our young side was even more impressive. Jordan Henderson marshalling the midfield alongside Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho picking the ball off Everton’s midfield and running at their defence and Raheem Sterling producing his most mature performance in a Reds shirt to date.
The 19-year old has turned his season around in spectacular fashion since being dropped earlier in the campaign and seemingly on his way to a loan move to improve his fortunes. However, from Christmas onwards, he has played with that same excitement that was evident in his debut season and his all-round improvement has cemented his place back in the side.
Playing the opponent instead of the expectations was something Rodgers did to perfection last night. If he keeps this plan in mind until May we could have a lot to cheer about.