LIVERPOOL, England (AP)With three fist pumps in front of the home fans, Jurgen Klopp celebrated his 250th win as Liverpool manager after beating Everton 2-0 on Monday.
Victory in the Merseyside derby is always something to savor in these parts. But such have been Liverpool’s troubles in recent weeks that a win of any description would have been gratefully received by the Anfield crowd.
Sitting ninth in the standings, this was a first victory in the Premier League in 2023 for Liverpool and only the second in eight games in all competitions.
While a Champions League-qualifying place in the top four is still nine points off, there were signs that the win in the 242nd Merseyside derby can provide a lift-off for manager Klopp’s faltering team.
January signing Cody Gakpo scored for the first time for his new club and there was good news on the injury front as fit-again Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino came off the bench in the second half.
Virgil van Dijk, who has also been out with injury, was an unused substitute.
”Tonight we were there and that has to be the sign for us what we have to do. We probably had 70% possession and scored from two counters, that makes it special,” Klopp said.
This season has been quite the come down for a Liverpool team that challenged for an unprecedented quadruple last year.
There have, however, been mitigating circumstances, with Klopp having to cope with injuries to key players, while also learning to live without forward Sadio Mane, who left for Bayern Munich last summer.
Still, the team’s erratic form has been hard for fans to take, with the Champions League their only realistic hope of a trophy this season.
In the league, fourth place remains a distant target, with a humbling 3-0 loss to Wolverhampton in Liverpool’s previous match being a measure of its struggles.
Hardly surprising then that Klopp celebrated so enthusiastically in front of the Kop
”We needed this game, we needed the performance, our people absolutely deserved it. I loved the atmosphere – it is an insane atmosphere people create here,” he said.
There was nothing for new Everton manager Sean Dyche to cheer as he was consigned to defeat in his first Merseyside derby and couldn’t build on the morale-boosting win against league-leading Arsenal in his opening game in charge.
”All games are important, but it’s fair to say people were wondering if we would get a point from our first two games,” Dyche said. ”To get three, I’m not too disappointed with that. I’m a realist and I know how tough the Premier League is.”
It might have been different for Everton if James Tarkowski’s first-half header had found the back of the net, rather than rebounding off the post.
Within moments it was the visitors who were behind as Liverpool immediately countered and Mo Salah opened the scoring in the 36th minute.
Gakpo sealed the win when he tapped in from close range in the 49th.
The Netherlands forward, a $45 million signing from PSV Eindhoven last month, had failed to score in his previous six appearances for his new club, but he had no trouble converting after Trent Alexander-Arnold fired a cross to the far post.
Everton is in the relegation zone, one point behind 17th-placed Leeds, which it meets on the weekend.
Liverpool travels to fourth-place Newcastle next, hoping to cut the gap further on its rival for that last Champions League qualifying position.
Before kick off Liverpool learned its fans had been cleared of blame after the events at last year’s Champions League final in Paris, where riot police fired tear gas at them outside the Stade de France.
An independent review found UEFA mostly responsible for the security failures that saw supporters locked out of the stadium in crushed queues that ”almost led to disaster.”
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports