Everton’s wait for a derby win at Anfield goes on after defeat at the home of their biggest rivals.
Matthew Pennington gave the vocal Blues in the away end their greatest cheer of the afternoon when he netted his first goal for the Club just before the half-hour mark.
That came after Sadio Mane had put the hosts in front with just eight minutes on the clock.
But parity wasn’t to last long for Everton as Philippe Coutinho restored Liverpool’s advantage three minutes after Pennigton’s leveller with a curled right-foot finish.
And despite a stronger showing after the break, the Toffees’ hopes were extinguished when substitute Divock Origi fired past Robles from the edge of the area.
Ronald Koeman declared his total confidence in both Pennington and Mason Holgate, the young duo who came into the team in place of Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori, both injured during the international break.
The game plan, in spite of the personnel changes, would remain the same regardless, the Blues boss insisted. Three at the back was the best system to press Liverpool, he added, advocating “an offensive mentality to go face to face”.
The opening skirmishes reflected the high-octane atmosphere that surrounds any derby and, with the possibility of the gap between the clubs being narrowed to a mere three points in the Premier League table, there was spite in the air and plenty of “face to face” on the ground.
Challenges were hard, firm and fair, as you might expect, but when the dust settled it was Liverpool who stole in to take the lead.
While he had the player at Southampton, Koeman insisted he “can't see any players in the Premier League who have the same speed as Sadio Mane - I have always asked him to use that speed and that movement and the rest of the players know that is his quality”. Utilising that speed and movement he broke free of Tom Davies, accelerated towards the penalty area and held off Ashley Williams before measuring his angle and slotting his shot between the legs of Pennington, past Joel Robles and inside the far post, capping his run from the centre circle to typically destructive effect.
There were less than eight minutes on the clock and a challenge that had been formidable prior to the Blues’ mid-morning passage across Stanley Park was suddenly more so.
Nerve and courage were required and a bit of productive impertinence, too. Robles and Phil Jagielka presented a defiant front when Coutinho advanced with menace, the Spanish goalkeeper saving his shot, with Jagielka forced to head the ball off the line to fully avert the danger. Jagielka was there again for another header from a Leighton Baines cross at the other end, but the Everton captain steered wide, before he nodded over the crossbar from a Baines corner kick.
The Blues were showing the necessary attitude and just before the half hour were rewarded with an equalising goal.
That it came from the boot of Pennington was prescient, too, with the manager having said to the Academy graduate two weeks ago that he would soon get an opportunity to play and show himself. “Two weeks later he's starting and scoring – that’s football," Koeman reflected.
From another Baines corner kick, Jagielka had headed across the face of goal, Williams and Dejan Lovren came together and the ball squeezed out to Pennington, who despatched his shot joyously in front of The Kop. The Blues were back in the game.
But the upsurge in mood would prove shortlived. Two minutes to be exact. Coutinho would be the architect of Everton’s demise this time, stealthily advancing into the penalty area, dropping his shoulder to outwit Pennington and steering his shot past Robles into the top left corner of the net. Having gained a firm foothold, Koeman will have been disappointed that it was given up so quickly.
Ross Barkley was booked for a challenge on Lovren and Romelu Lukaku was restricted throughout an opening half which Liverpool had the better of.
But Everton could have drawn level again just a couple of minutes into the second half when a free-kick by Barkley came all the way to Williams at the back post. Yet, stretching hard to make good contact, the Welshman was unable to get the necessary power on his right-footed volley, which Simon Mignolet saved handily.
What it did show, however, was that Liverpool could be caught again. Idrissa Gana Gueye played in Lukaku, who fed Barkley for a shot which deflected off Joel Matip and Mignolet had to make a sharp save with the ball arriving into his hands at pace.
Everton were asking questions. Barkley beat four Liverpool players before he spread the ball to Holgate on the right and only a blocked cross saved the hosts from imminent danger. But danger lurked at the other end and when Holgate lost possession and Coutinho picked it up on the left flank before feeding the ball inside to Origi, the Liverpool substitute finished the move with an emphatic shot past Robles.
Gareth Barry entered the fray in place of Pennington and Enner Valencia came on for Tom Davies. Holgate had a powerfully-struck shot that took a deflection saved by Mignolet and, from Baines’s subsequent cross he ought to have scored but, seven yards out and unmarked, he headed over the crossbar.
Robles made another good save to deny Trent Alexander-Arnold, a second half substitute, but the inspiation that could swing the game back towards Everton remained elusive.