Liverpool 3 – Everton 1
Liverpool enhanced their prospects of a top-four place by beating derby rivals Everton, whose own hopes of breaking into the battle for a Champions League qualification spot were severely damaged by the defeat.
Sadio Mane gave the hosts an early lead when he played a one-two with Roberto Firmino and finished off an angled run with a shot into the far corner.
A Philippe Coutinho shot was palmed up by Toffees keeper Joel Robles and headed off the line by Phil Jagielka before the visitors equalised.
Jagielka flicked on a corner at the near post and, after Ashley Williams got a touch, Matthew Pennington arrived to slot in his first Everton goal on his first appearance of the season.
However, the match was level for just two minutes and 57 seconds before Coutinho beat two players and curled a shot into the top corner, and he then set up substitute Divock Origi – on for the injured Mane – to power in Liverpool’s third.
The result leaves the Reds six points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United – who have two games in hand – while Everton are seven points off the top four having played more matches than their rivals.
Coutinho sparkles but Mane injury a worry
Liverpool hired a private jet to bring Coutinho and fellow Brazil international Firmino back after their country’s win over Paraguay in midweek and will feel the move was worth it after the forward returned to form in style.
Coutinho has struggled since recovering from an ankle injury in January but provided an assist as well as his goal as the Reds extended their unbeaten run against their Merseyside neighbours to 14 games in all competitions.
The 24-year-old was a picture of feints, shimmies and attacking runs at the Blues defence, and might have scored earlier if Robles and Jagielka had not combined to deny him.
Mane, who scored the winner in the reverse fixture, set the Reds on their way with his 13th goal of the season – but an injury in the second half will be a concern for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, who is already without attacking midfielder Adam Lallana for up to a month.
Senegal winger Mane, Liverpool’s top scorer this season, hurt himself trying to win the ball off Leighton Baines and, when he tried to put weight on his leg after treatment, collapsed.
“I’ve met Mane in the dressing room. It doesn’t look too good,” said Klopp.