Liverpool: Liverpool hired a private jet to get Brazil playmaker Philippe Coutinho back from international duty in good time for the Merseyside derby against Everton.
It proved to be a worthwhile investment.
Coutinho helped the red half of Merseyside maintain their dominance of their neighbours with a spellbinding individual performance at Anfield, scoring one goal after a weaving run and also setting up substitute Divock Origi for the clinching third in a 3-1 win in the Premier League on Saturday.
The standing ovation that Coutinho received after being substituted late on showed just what Liverpool's fans thought of his display. No wonder Barcelona have been heavily linked with the attacking midfielder, who can be peerless in England's top division on days like this.
"World-class goal," said Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who thanked Brazil for giving back Coutinho and compatriot Roberto Firmino in "a fantastic mood." Coutinho "had a really, really good game. Not happy when I took him off, but I like his desire."
Klopp removed Coutinho to preserve a crucial element of his forward line after seeing another member, Sadio Mane, limp off with a left leg injury in the 57th after landing awkwardly in a challenge. Mane, who put Liverpool ahead in the eighth minute with another solo goal, was in pain in the dressing room after the game and Klopp said the forward "didn't look comfortable."
It's now 13 Merseyside derbies in the league without defeat for Liverpool dating back to October 2010 – equalling a club record – and this was an important win in the context of Champions League qualification, with Klopp's team climbing above Manchester City into third place with the end of the season coming into view.
Everton arrived at Anfield in seventh place and as the league's form team in 2017, but coach Ronald Koeman played a young lineup because of injury problems and it told.
Liverpool handled a typically combustible derby match better – there have been more red cards (21) in this fixture than any other Premier League game – and Everton midfielder Ross Barkley will count himself fortunate to finish the match. He avoided a booking for a bad early foul on Emre Can and then only got a yellow card for a crude, studs-first lunge on the left ankle of Dejan Lovren that enraged Klopp and his backroom staff.
"Maybe he deserved two yellow cards," Koeman said.
Barkley struggled for composure in a frenetic game, unlike Liverpool counterpart Coutinho, who oozed class and assuredness – not least when he sent Barkley skidding on his backside with a wonderful shimmy early in the second half.
Coutinho's goal was the standout moment, overshadowing Mane's goal as Everton paid for standing off the Senegal forward. Exchanging a one-two with Roberto Firmino, Mane shrugged off Tom Davies, drove past Ashley Williams and slid a low, angled shot into the far corner.
Everton equalised against the run of play in the 29th when Pennington, one of four players aged 22 or younger in the team, marked his first appearance of the season for the Toffees by scoring his first-ever goal for the club. Phil Jagielka's flick-on from a corner was blocked in the six-yard box by Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, and Pennington swept home a close-range finish.
Coutinho, a scorer for Brazil on Tuesday night against Paraguay, then took centre stage. He reclaimed the lead for Liverpool in spectacular style by picking up the ball 40 meters (yards) out, drifting past Idrissa Gueye, cutting inside Pennington and curling brilliantly into the top right corner.
More skill from Coutinho led to the third goal, the Brazilian following a jinking run with a pass inside to Origi. The striker – on the field only three minutes as a substitute for Mane – took a touch and sent in a 30-meter shot that appeared to wrong-foot goalkeeper Joel Robles and flew into the net.
Klopp is the first Liverpool manager to win his first three Merseyside derbies, and he said that ensuring his team kept their heads was key.
"I know a few people from other clubs think I am crazy, but my teams are always top of the fair-play table because I think aggressiveness is to help yourself," Klopp said. "We did really well to show you have to play football."