LIVERPOOL striker Daniel Sturridge scored two and missed a penalty but it was captain Steven Gerrard who dictated the tone of the 222nd Merseyside derby as Everton were blown away in a scintillating first half.
Scorers: Liverpool - Gerrard (21), Sturridge (33, 35) Suarez (50)
Gerrard’s influence plus Liverpool’s superior firepower meant the Toffees never stood a chance.
Gerrard’s header opened the scoring in the 21st minute and was followed by Sturridge’s two in quick succession with Luis Suarez scoring his 23rd of the season just after half-time.
It was not supposed to be like this for Everton as this had been billed as the closest derby for years and the Toffees’ best chance of ending their 14-year run without a win at Anfield.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez’s team came with the idea of imposing themselves and Ross Barkley, back 24 days after breaking a toe, blasted wide after just 64 seconds.
Everton dominated the early possession but it was the hosts creating the chances. Raheem Sterling should have put his side ahead when Sturridge’s brilliant lobbed pass put him through but Tim Howard saved with his legs.
The breakthrough came from the Liverpool captain in the 21st minute. Suarez whipped in a corner and Gerrard lost marker Gareth Barry to power home a near-post header. It proved a double blow for Everton as Barry’s attempts to re-engage with Gerrard at the corner saw him clatter into team-mate Romelu Lukaku, resulting in the striker being carried off on a stretcher.
Phil Jagielka forced Simon Mignolet into a good save and Kevin Mirallas fired wide but the momentum was all with the hosts and Coutinho’s diagonal pass sent Sturridge sprinting clear from the halfway line to clip past Howard.
If that was clinical his second, less than three minutes later, was brilliant as from Kolo Toure’s long ball forward he hooked a lob almost over his shoulder to easily beat Howard.
Everton needed a positive start to the second half but Jagielka’s misjudgement on the halfway line gave Suarez the opening to race 50 yards and slot past Howard.
Gerrard generously gave Sturridge the chance to complete his hat-trick when Sterling was brought down by the goalkeeper but the striker ballooned his penalty into the Kop.