The Everton goalkeeper hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck in Merseyside derbies, but he had enough to last him a lifetime here
If Jordan Pickford has any sense, he’ll be doing the lottery this evening.
The Everton goalkeeper hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck in Merseyside derbies, but he had enough to last him a lifetime here, as the 237th instalment of this most famous of rivalries ended, as it tends to do at Goodison Park, in a draw.
Pickford had his head in his hands in stoppage time, distraught after seeing Jordan Henderson’s strike squirm beyond him and into the net to give Liverpool three points at the home of their nearest neighbours.
Yet as one Jordan celebrated, another was to be reprieved. A VAR check showed – well, it didn’t, really – that Sadio Mane was offside in the build-up. The tip of his elbow, apparently.
It looked incredibly harsh, even on second, third or twentieth viewing, but Michael Oliver, the referee, chalked it off. The game finished even, 2-2.
“I’ve seen the disallowed goal at the end and in the picture I saw it wasn’t offside. Can someone explain that to me?”, a furious Jurgen Klopp said on TV following the final whistle.
Liverpool will argue, and with plenty of justification, that Pickford shouldn’t have been on the field at that point, after his wild early challenge on Virgil van Dijk, somehow, avoided detection by the same VAR, David Coote.
Liverpool were already a goal up at that point, Mane having smashed them ahead from Andy Robertson’s third-minute cross, but they should have been a man up too as Pickford steamed from his goal to meet Van Dijk in his penalty area.
The goalkeeper’s feet were high, and nowhere near the ball. He caught Van Dijk halfway up his leg.
No red card. Van Dijk, as Mane would be later, was deemed marginally offside, with Pickford’s actions not deemed to be violent conduct or serious foul play. Go figure.
Van Dijk departed injured, with Liverpool facing an anxious wait to discover the full extent of his issue. The Dutchman had played every minute of his side’s last 74 Premier League matches, and with Alisson Becker already sidelined with a shoulder problem, Jurgen Klopp can ill afford to lose another of his defensive totems for any great length of time.
Liverpool conceded within eight minutes of Van Dijk’s exit here, undone by a James Rodriguez corner and a Michael Keane header for 1-1.
Pickford, taking advantage of his good fortune, made a good save to deny Trent Alexander-Arnold before half-time, but was beaten again 18 minutes from time, Mohamed Salah producing a wonderful instinctive finish to mark his 100th goal for Liverpool.
It has taken the Egyptian just 159 games to reach that landmark. Only two players, Roger Hunt and Jack Parkinson, have ever done it for the Reds in fewer.
Pickford was in the thick of it again soon after, producing a truly world-class save to keep out Joel Matip’s close-range header. It felt like a big moment, reflexes of the highest order from England’s No 1, and so it proved. A few minutes later, another header, this time at the other end from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, found the Liverpool net for 2-2.
There was still drama to come on this wild and wonderful afternoon. Richarlison left the ground and caught Thiago Alcantara crudely, receiving a red card for his troubles.