It was a fairytale ending at Anfield as Liverpool’s new £75 million man Virgil van Dijk rose majestically to head a late winner at the Kop end to break Evertonian hearts on his debut, leading the Reds to a 2-1 victory. Liverpool advance to the FA Cup fourth round and Everton’s derby misery continues, as they have not beaten their rivals in 16 meetings.
For the third game in a row Liverpool dug deep to find a winner in the closing stages. This was an area in which the Reds had been lacking all season but they’ve got a real taste for late goals now.
There’s no need to dwell on any negatives after such a dramatic and satisfying win in a local derby.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — Jurgen Klopp’s decision to throw Van Dijk in at the deep end was only taken on the morning of the game, but it proved to be an inspired move by the Liverpool boss. He picked the strongest team available to him and was rewarded by progress into the next round and a memorable win over the neighbours.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Loris Karius, 6 — The German had very little to do but looked confident and switched on throughout. He was beaten once by a well-placed Gylfi Sigurdsson shot but there was very little he could have done about that.
DF Joe Gomez, 7 — Brilliant in the first half, when his strength and composure in possession really caught the eye. Should have done better after the break with a headed opportunity he put wide and was then caught in possession a couple of times before making way for Trent Alexander-Arnold.
DF Joel Matip, 7 — Not the most difficult of tests for him but did what needed to be done with the minimum of fuss and will be happy to have been given the first crack at forming a partnership with Van Dijk. The Dutchman will be the lynchpin of the defence but it’s wide open as to who will play alongside him.
DF Virgil van Dijk, 9 — This was exactly the kind of display Liverpool fans were hoping for from their new man. Dominant in the air, composed on the ball and never stopped encouraging and organising those around him. Scored the winning goal too. Not a bad night’s work for the world’s most expensive defender.
DF Andrew Robertson, 8 — Brilliant performance from the Scot. He was defensively outstanding in his duel with the dangerous Yannick Bolasie yet was still able to offer an important outlet in attacking areas. But for Van Dijk’s heroics, he would have been the star of this win.
MF Emre Can, 7 — His future is uncertain but his commitment during games most certainly isn’t. Strong, determined and combative, the German is having a solid season and if he does indeed move on at the end of the season he will be missed.
MF James Milner, 6 — Not his most creative performance but he was disciplined in his defensive work and kept his cool to convert a first-half penalty. No surprise when he was sacrificed for an extra attacker as Liverpool pushed for a late winner.
MF Adam Lallana, 6 — Understandably rusty and made a slow start to the game before gradually finding his feet. Won a penalty and made some strong forward runs. Could have scored in the second half but seemed to be exhausted by the time he reached the ball and produced a tame shot. Replaced with 20 minutes remaining.
FW Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 6 — Struggled to really impose himself in the first half but improved after the break. Worked hard and delivered some nice set pieces, including the one from which Van Dijk headed the winner.
FW Roberto Firmino, 7 — Gave the Everton backline a torrid time with his movement and closing down, and was fortunate to avoid serious injury when Mason Holgate shoved him in the back and sent him flying into the Main Stand. Scoring opportunities were scarce but the Brazilian was constantly involved and more than played his part in the win.
FW Sadio Mane, 6 — Showed flashes of what he can do but it’s just not clicking for him at the moment. Had one or two half chances that failed to hit the target, but one surge into the box in the second half showed he’s not far off hitting top gear again.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 6 — Provided energy when it was needed for the closing stages, although most of his best work came defensively as he showed good strength and awareness to snuff out a couple of dangerous-looking Everton breaks.
FW Dominic Solanke, NR — One or two decent pieces of hold-up play but didn’t make too much impact. Picked up a booking though.
DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, NR — Replaced Gomez as Klopp looked for a more attacking option down the right, but didn’t have too much opportunity to get involved.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC’s Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.