EPL

Liverpool 2-0 Everton: Gakpo off the mark in much-needed derby win for Reds

By Sports Desk February 13, 2023

Cody Gakpo scored his first goal for Liverpool and Mohamed Salah was on target as Everton were consigned to a 2-0 Merseyside derby defeat at Anfield.

The Reds' hopes of securing a top-four finish had been rocked by a run of four top-flight games without a win, but they got their first Premier League victory of 2023 on Monday.

Salah rounded off a blistering counter-attack 12 seconds after James Tarkowski had struck the post with his 18th goal of the season, having failed to find the back of the net in his previous five matches, late in the first half.

Gakpo got off the mark early in the second half as Liverpool moved up a spot to ninth and kept their neighbours in the relegation zone by consigning boss Sean Dyche to a first defeat, with substitute appearances for the fit-again Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino also providing boosts for Jurgen Klopp.

Netherlands forward Gakpo spurned a good chance to open the scoring when he headed wide from close range early in a frantic start.

Tarkowski came agonisingly close to scoring a second goal in as many games after his winner against Arsenal when he rose to meet Alex Iwobi's corner with a header that struck that post, and Liverpool were in front moments later.

Everton were badly caught out on the break as Darwin Nunez darted forward and picked out Salah, who tucked into an empty net with Jordan Pickford in no man's land nine minutes before the break.

The Toffees were once again caught on the break four minutes into the second half, when Conor Cody failed to deal with Trent Alexander-Arnold's dangerous cross and Gakpo got off the mark with a tap-in.

Nunez was denied by Pickford from tight angle and bent an effort just wide after being set up by Gakpo as Everton continued to be opened up all too easily.

Ellis Simms was withdrawn after being handed a start with Dominic Calvert-Lewin unfit, before Jota and Firmino were given great ovations when they came off the bench, and Tom Davies' glaring miss with a header from close range summed up Everton's day.

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  • More Copa America records go Messi's way as Argentina pick up where they left off More Copa America records go Messi's way as Argentina pick up where they left off

    Argentina picked up where they left off in the Copa America, with the holders kick-starting their title defence with a strong 2-0 victory over Canada.

    The world champions are expected to progress with ease from Group A, and they made an ideal start in Atlanta on Thursday.

    Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez got the goals, but it was of course Lionel Messi who was the main focus.

    Messi became the record appearance maker in the 108-year history of the Copa America, overtaking Chile great Sergio Livingstone by featuring in his 35th match at the tournament.

    The 36-year-old's superb tournament record stands at 22 wins, 10 draws and three losses. And he has one Copa title – a total he hopes will increase with another trophy on July 14.

    And while he could not get on the scoresheet, Messi, despite playing on a choppy pitch that has drawn the ire of Argentina, was as influential as ever for La Albiceleste.

    He will probably lament some unusually profligate finishing - at least by his high standards - as the reason why he didn't mark his record-setting appearance with a 14th Copa America goal (he is, as it stands, four off the all-time leading goalscorers in the competition, Norberto Mendez and Zizinho).

    Messi had a game-leading six shots, getting three of them on target, with those attempts accumulating an expected goals (xG) value of 0.79 - a total bettered by only his team-mate Martinez (0.8).

    The Inter Miami star led the match for touches in the opponent's box (nine), and big chances (two) in an all-action display.

    Canada's goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who like Messi plays in MLS, was also on form, making six saves.

    But what Messi lacked in his finishing, he made up for in creativity.

    His total of five chances created led the match, and was at least two clear of any other player on the pitch. He was nine ahead of next-best Rodrigo de Paul for passes in the final third, with 27, and attempted six dribbles, albeit only completing one of them.

    It was Messi's pass that released Alexis Mac Allister, who was then wiped out by Crepeau only for Alvarez to tuck home Argentina's 49th-minute opener.

    And it was Messi who put through substitute Martinez to round off the victory late on.

    That was Messi's 17th assist at the Copa America, with his first assist in the competition coming in 2011.

    Since then, he has registered over three times as many assists as any other player in the competition, with Angel Di Maria and Alexis Sanchez ranking second on five each.

    It also saw Messi reach 50 direct goal involvements in official competitions for club and country on U.S. soil (30 goals + 20 assists).

    His figure of seven line-breaking passes, meanwhile, was more than double that of any other player in Thursday's match.

    Argentina can reasonably reflect that they should have scored more, an ominous sign for their upcoming opponents. They had nine big scoring chances (according to Opta's definition) against Canada, the most for La Albiceleste in a single game since 2013, and accumulated 2.98 xG. 

    Messi was at the heart of it all, but it was not a case of him having to do it all on his own.

    De Paul was impressive in midfield, while in Alvarez and Martinez, Messi has an excellent supporting cast for this year's competition.

    At 24 years and 142 days, Alvarez is the youngest player to score in both the World Cup and the Copa America since Jose Maria Gimenez did so for Uruguay in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

    Martinez, meanwhile, has scored in four of the last five matches he has played in the Copa America, striking in this match against Canada to follow up goals against Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia in 2021. The only exception in that run was the final in 2021 against Brazil.

    The Inter striker might have to settle for a back-up role at this tournament, but it's now three goals in his last two matches for his country, and he could be a contender for the Golden Boot.

    Argentina should be confident of a deep run. They should really go all the way.

    They are the best team in the world, after all, and Lionel Scaloni has, by some distance, the best squad in the competition at his disposal, what with Brazil missing stalwarts Casemiro, Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison, as well as their talisman Neymar, even if Vinicius Junior is an excellent alternative.

    That being said, this is the first time under their coach that Argentina have won their opening match of a major tournament, having slipped to a 2-0 defeat to Colombia in the 2019 Copa America, drawing 1-1 with Chile in the same competition two years later, and then losing 2-1 to Saudi Arabia at the 2022 World Cup.

    This time, they have got off on the right foot. Upcoming matches against Chile and Peru should not prove tough hurdles to navigate, especially not with Messi already clicking through the gears.

  • Italy fortunate to only lose by one, concedes Spalletti Italy fortunate to only lose by one, concedes Spalletti

    Italy boss Luciano Spalletti conceded the Azzurri were never in their Euro 2024 game against Spain and felt the defending champions were fortunate not to lose by more than a one-goal margin.

    Riccardo Calafiori's second-half own goal made the difference as Spain defeated Italy 1-0 in Gelsenkirchen on Thursday.

    The defender became the first Italy player to ever put through his own net in a European Championship match and a poor loss left the Azzurri with work still to do to secure progression from Group B.

    Spain fired off 20 shots to Italy's four, also creating 1.9 expected goals (xG) to the Azzurri's 0.18 and enjoying 57.2 per cent of the possession, with La Roja clinching their place in the knockout rounds.

    Spalletti was honest in his post-match assessment, with a huge clash against Croatia in Leipzig to follow on Monday.

    "It is a result they [Spain] deserved and beyond the one-goal difference," Spalletti told reporters.

    "They deserved to win it and we were never in the game

    "Besides the final 20 minutes of the match we were never able to create situations which would allow us to actually compete against a brand of football of this level.

    "They caused us problems larger than the scoreline suggested, let’s not beat around the bush. 

    "Spain were a team on the night and we were not able to be a team."

    If they are to lift more silverware in Berlin next month, Italy will need a dramatic improvement, as attempting just four shots in the match meant it was their fewest on record (since 1980) in any Euros game.

    By contrast Spain, who were drawn into what many believed to be the toughest group at the tournament, have  made light work of some difficult opponents, thrashing Croatia 3-0 before comfortably overcoming Italy.

    They have clinched top spot in Group B with a game to spare, while Italy are second on three points, two clear of Croatia and Albania going into the final round of games.

    Finding a way to increase his players' energy levels was on Spalletti's mind going into the clash with Zlatko Dalic's side.

    Spalletti added: "Maybe I needed to give them more rest, I probably need to give them more days off.

    "We gave them a day and a half off in terms of rest and we saw that was the right decision in terms of our data.

    "But there was too much of a gulf, we were constantly stretched, we probably didn't recover very well in terms of just how demanding and important the [start of the] tournament was itself, because there was too much of a gulf in terms of sharpness and freshness.

    "You can't necessarily talk about anything else, overall. If you don't have the same stamina as the opposition, obviously you can't do things with the same reactivity, the same speed of reaction."

    If Italy are able to secure second place in Group B, they will face the runners-up in Group A, a position currently held by Switzerland, in the last 16.

  • Scaloni and Martinez hit out at Atlanta pitch after Argentina win Copa America opener Scaloni and Martinez hit out at Atlanta pitch after Argentina win Copa America opener

    Lionel Scaloni and Emiliano Martinez criticised the state of the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium after Argentina's 2-0 Copa America win over Canada.

    Goals from Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez got the job done for the reigning continental and world champions in Atlanta on Thursday, in the tournament's opener.

    However, the state of the playing surface was a big issue, with the turf notably chopping up.

    Mercedes-Benz Stadium is used for both NFL games - it is the home of the Atlanta Falcons - and MLS, with Atlanta United playing their home matches there, but Scaloni was deeply unhappy with the preparation of the pitch, with an artificial surface having been replaced by grass on the eve of the Copa America.

    "The start looked like the match with Saudi Arabia [at the 2022 World Cup], with the difference that we played on a more decent pitch that time," Scaloni told reporters.

    "With all due respect, thank goodness we won. Otherwise, it would have been a cheap excuse.

    "We have known for seven months that we are going to play here and they changed the turf two days ago.

    "It is not good for the show. It is not an excuse, the stadium is beautiful and with synthetic turf it must be spectacular, but with today's turf it is not suitable for this kind of players."

    Scaloni's sentiment was echoed by goalkeeper Martinez, who told TyC Sports: "Coming here against a strong Canada, with good forwards and on a field that is a disaster made it a little difficult for us.

    "We have to improve in that aspect. Otherwise, the Copa America will always be at a lower level than the European Championship."

    Argentina captain and talisman Lionel Messi became the record appearance maker in Copa America history, overtaking Sergio Livingstone by playing in his 35th game at the tournament.

    While he could not mark the milestone appearance with a goal, Messi did tee up Martinez's effort late on, with that assist his 17th in the Copa America.

    "We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew that Canada was going to be a hard team to go against," Messi told FOX.

    "They were physical, very physical. In the first half, there was little space. It was intense, physically intense and strong and then in the second half we were able to progress and get better."

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