Everton have to set their sights higher than just beating Liverpool – now King Carlo must make the top four to show tangible signs of the Toffees’ progress
- Everton defeated Liverpool 2-0 for their first victory at Anfield since 1999
- But boss Carlo Ancelotti played down the result, saying it was just three points
- The Italian must focus on his own side and secure Champions League football
They were dancing in the dressing room, rejoicing in their role of ghostbusters, as Carlo Ancelotti was being bombarded with questions about history.
Everton had turned the city blue with their most authoritative display at Anfield in a generation, one which ended a 22-year wait for victory at this stadium, and how the players were going to enjoy it.
The giddiness would be mirrored by supporters, who had waited so patiently for this moment. Ancelotti, understandably, was glowing with contentment. There was, however, also a part of him that was a little taken aback by the reaction — indicative of someone who is well-travelled, vastly experienced and has seen it all.
After beating Liverpool, Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti must now focus on improving his side
‘We are wrong if we think we achieved something,’ said Ancelotti. ‘I think it is a good moment for us, but it is only three points.
‘Our target is not beating Liverpool. Our target is to reach the European positions and be playing European football next season. This is the achievement.’
But did he realise he had become a hero? ‘I’m not a hero,’ he said with a smile. ‘The heroes have all died, unfortunately.’
Here was an important lesson, imparted by one of football’s grandmasters. With each year that has passed since Kevin Campbell scored the club’s last winning goal at Anfield in September 1999, it has felt like certain elements around Everton were more preoccupied with Liverpool than focused on themselves.
For some, it will feel like Richarlison’s drive and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s penalty have led to a summit being scaled. You could see in Ancelotti’s face, though, that such an idea did not sit easily. This, ultimately, was three points on a Saturday evening in the middle of February.
The Italian masterminded his passionate Toffees side to their first win at Anfield since 1999
Do you think Ancelotti will look back on this season with any fondness if this proves to be its highlight? No chance. It is why his words carried so much significance, a reminder to everyone to put things into perspective — and encouragement about what they could achieve.
What a fantastic opportunity sits in front of Everton. The last time they visited Anfield in the Premier League, in December 2019, they were humiliated 5-2. The evening was pockmarked by rancour in the away end and squabbling on the pitch. The following day, manager Marco Silva was sacked.
The reason Everton’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri pursued Ancelotti so aggressively was to transform the mentality, to shake the inertia and make them believe they could go into fixtures of this nature as equals. Here was resounding evidence of the extent of the Italian’s influence.
Gylfi Sigurdsson made it 2-0 with a penalty after this foul on striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Everton started superbly — landing the first punch when Richarlison breezed past the lumbering Ozan Kabak on to a super James Rodriguez pass — then defended impeccably, frequently sending Liverpool down blind alleys. When the hosts did get sight of goal, they found Jordan Pickford was faultless.
This was a team who had been well drilled, were tactically astute and had the confidence to carry out all that was asked of them. They had not played with such maturity here since Joe Royle masterminded a 2-1 win in November 1995.
Michael Keane, one of many outstanding performers in blue, explained: ‘Quite a lot of us have experience playing against Liverpool, so in the pre-match meeting the manager said, ‘What have you learned from the past and how do we want to approach this?’
‘We knew what to expect from Liverpool. They are a great team but if you defend well, track the runners and work really hard then you can frustrate them. Obviously this season there is space to hit them on the counter-attack and we took advantage. I’m glad it worked really well for us.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side are a pale imitation of the brutal Reds outfit from last campaign
‘It definitely shows progress. We’ve made big strides, that’s clear to see. The players we’ve brought in, the mentality, the style of play, the football we are playing.
‘We want to finish above Liverpool, and if we do, that will mean we are in a good position. We’ll do everything to make sure that happens.’
With all due respect to Keane, they would do well to forget about Liverpool now. Jurgen Klopp’s team are listing like a ship with holes in its hull. They face more challenging days before the end of May. Everton don’t need to be concerned about them. Everton need to harness momentum.
In their next four fixtures, they face Southampton and Burnley at home and West Brom and Chelsea away. This squad absolutely has the potential to take 12 points from that sequence and if they want to finish in the top four that has to be the aim.
Some will still look at Everton with scepticism. Nine of the outfield players who started against Liverpool started six days earlier against Fulham and barely laid a glove on them. But in football, one game can be the catalyst for something transformative.
‘This is a good moment for us but, as I said, this is only three points,’ Ancelotti reiterated.
Beating Liverpool has lifted a curse but it must not represent the be all and end all. Ancelotti, you can be sure, will not allow that to be the case.
It is time for everyone else at the club to follow his lead. It is time to look at the big picture and create a thrilling new era.
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