Jordan Pickford was Carlo Ancelotti’s real hero as Everton recorded the first away win over Liverpool in 22-years during Saturday’s 2-0 Merseyside derby triumph at Anfield.
Goals from Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson in either half dealt Jurgen Klopp’s defending Premier League champions their fourth-straight home defeat, having gone almost four years without losing a top-flight fixture on Reds soil before Burnley’s 1-0 win last month.
You had to go back even further for the last time that the Toffees had won on their travels across Stanley Park, with Walter Smith’s Blues running out 1-0 victors in September 1999 for the Goodison Park natives’ last win away to their rivals.
The clock has now been reset on Everton’s unwanted record, and Ancelotti’s men’s rare win was enough for the Toffees to move level with Liverpool in sixth-place while closing the gap to the top-four to just three points after Southampton held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw.
But Everton still have a game in hand over Thomas Tuchel’s Blues and can look to further solidify their challenge for a European qualifying berth thanks to Pickford’s exploits between the posts on Saturday.
In challenging conditions with the wind swirling around Anfield, Pickford frequently provided pivotal saves to keep his side a goal to the good. The England number one proved a particular bane for Jordan Henderson in the first half and Mohamed Salah in the second.
Henderson had appeared on course to pull Liverpool level in the 20th minute with a beautiful outside-foot volley, only for Pickford to fly down to his right-hand side and fingertip his compatriot’s effort round the post.
Pickford had already punched away a dangerous cross from Sadio Mane in the opening stages to deny Curtis Jones, as the midfielder waited at the back post with an open goal in front of him. He would again deny Mane after the break and confidently collected another delivery when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross floated into the £100,000-per-week shot-stopper’s box.
Salah again forced a vital save from the £23.5m-rated ace in the 69th-minute, with Pickford decisively smothering the Egypt winger’s attempt on goal after a nice piece of interplay between Roberto Firmino and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Pickford’s performance was a showcase of the best the 26-year-old can be and the perfect retort to his critics after the slating received for his challenge on Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk in the reverse fixture in October.
The 30-cap ‘keeper, who made six saves in total – above the Premier League-high average of 4.13 a game recorded by West Bromwich Albion’s Sam Johnstone – further took 47 touches on Saturday, only Mason Holgate (48) and Lucas Digne (51) registered more for Everton, per WhoScored.
Pickford also registered his best SofaScore match rating across all competitions for club and country since January 2019 when he achieved an 8.7 out of ten against AFC Bournemouth, with the former Sunderland ace earning an 8.3 despite averaging a 6.6 over his last three Premier League appearances.
His display ensured Pickford emerged as Ancelotti’s real hero at Anfield, despite Michael Keane providing two fantastic moments to keep the Reds without a goal by blocking Firmino in the first half and pulling off a crucial last-man tackle on Mane in the second period.
AND in other news, Everton face a £35m asking price to land Carlo Ancelotti’s 21-year-old target…