Liverpool hitting their stride heading into crucial festive fixtures

As a smattering of Everton fans trickled out of Goodison Park just 20 minutes into Wednesday night’s Merseyside derby, Liverpool’s 2-0 lead seemed like the foreword to a historic humbling.

Yet, by the end of a woefully one-sided 4-1 trampling, the record books only had to flicked back to the mid-1980s to locate a commensurate away win for the Reds at Goodison Park.

Barely a minute from kickoff Liverpool already had the pessimistic Everton faithful drawing a sharp intake of breath. Joel Matip sauntered into criminal isolation inside the penalty area but flicked Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner narrowly past the post.

A matter of seconds later Andros Townsend was rapidly acquainted with the blistering intensity of Everton’s visitors. The winger’s limp pass was snaffled up by Diogo Jota, allowing him to whip in a fierce cross that Mohamed Salah awkwardly volleyed wide.

Jordan Henderson eventually broke the deadlock, sweetly curling in the first of Liverpool’s four that took their tally to a scarcely believable 43 league goals for the season already. Seven teams couldn’t match that total in the entirety of the 2020/21 campaign. Liverpool themselves only scored 42 times in a 42-game 1971/72 season that saw them finish fifth.

Europe’s most prolific side can (and make a point of ensuring that they do) strike from any angle. In stark contrast to the key-hole precision of Henderson’s opener, Salah swept down the pitch like a knife through butter for Liverpool’s second and third.

Steaming into Everton’s half unobstructed for both goals, Salah benefitted from what Jurgen Klopp has previously described as ‘the best playmaker’ – a well-oiled press.

Having regained the ‘aggression’ Klopp demands of his sides after a reality-check of a 3-2 defeat away to West Ham at the start of November, Liverpool have been firing on all cylinders off the ball as much as on it of late.

A combination of Jota and Thiago Alcantara swarmed the skittish Ben Godfrey wading out of Everton’s half inside the opening 20 minutes, shovelling the ball to Henderson who sprang Salah clear.

Supposedly the world’s seventh-best player (he’s clearly top three) took matters into his own hands, or boots – or rather, out of Seamus Coleman’s control – for Liverpool’s third. Pouncing upon a loose touch in the centre circle, Salah burst clear of the Everton skipper before rolling his shot tantalisingly out of Pickford’s reach.

Demarai Gray’s crisply taken consolation sandwiched between these strikes broke a run of more than five hours without conceding for Liverpool. While there may well be some areas – particularly in the pesky half-spaces – for the Reds to tighten up, only Chelsea and Manchester City have conceded fewer Premier League goals so far this term.

Diogo Jota applied the finishing touches on a comfortable evening, netting the fourth goal of the night and the fourth in his past three outings as he provides some comfort that the scoring tap may not suddenly run dry when Sadio Mane and Salah depart for international duty.

The much-feared Africa Cup of Nations doesn’t start until the second week of January, the other side of a typically congested festive fixture list. The midweek derby was the first of nine games Liverpool are faced with in December alone.

However, if the Reds continue to exude the skill, guile and efficiency of their recent displays, a match every couple of days will simply serve as extra opportunity to marvel at this high-spec machine in full flow.