By the end, the mood was utterly toxic. Marcel Brands, the director of football, was arguing with an abusive supporter in the stand. Bill Kenwright, the chairman, paused to speak to a well-wisher then regretted it as the locals turned on him, too, and he hurried to the exit.
The boos that Liverpool fans had joyously predicted were all too apparent, and much worse besides. One Everton fan got on the pitch and confronted Anthony Gordon, Seamus Coleman and Abdoulaye Doucoure. He did not appear to be asking for a selfie.
Only one conclusion can be drawn from this: Everton could go down. They really could.
Everton's poisonous atmosphere could see the club dragged into the Championship
The five-point gap to the bottom three is nothing with 24 games to go, particularly as Burnley could win a home game in hand against Tottenham and make it two. And the mood at Goodison Park would have been instantly recognisable to followers of West Ham or Newcastle. It is one that can drag a club down. Not all the way to the Championship maybe, but near enough.
It was seen at the London Stadium the year West Ham stayed up by the skin of their teeth, and Newcastle are still striving to rise above it. These days draws at home to relegation rivals are being reimagined with positivity. Yet it may already be too late. Newcastle’s players are nervous and lack confidence. The damage is already done.
Evertonians now have a path to choose. It is not their fault that so much money has been wasted. Their frustration is understood. Yet the scenes at the end of the Merseyside derby were at best unhelpful, at worst potentially ruinous. We knew Rafa Benitez would only be popular while he was winning. It is plain a succession of directors of football and advisers have bought badly.
Marcel Brands (centre) and Bill Kenwright (right) felt waves of protest after the game by fans
It is astonishing that £500m has assembled a team this poor. But how can what unfolded on Wednesday help turn that corner? How can it fail to produce another group of players who are skittish, who make bad decisions, who hide? It is what is ongoing at Newcastle, because the stakes remain too high even though the Ashley-era gloom has lifted.
Nothing without fans. The pandemic taught us that. Yet equally not every fan interaction is advantageous. The period after Everton pulled one back was the best of it on Wednesday for them. The crowd and the team fed off each other. Then Demarai Gray played a tricky pass to Coleman, he made a mess of receiving it, and Mo Salah was away for Liverpool’s third.
It was in the poisonous aftermath that Everton looked their worst, and Liverpool achieved their biggest derby win in a league game at Goodison since 1982.
It doesn’t mean the criticism isn’t valid. No one is more entitled to their view than the match-going fans. Just the freedom to vent can have unanticipated consequences; and the Championship is full of them.
Fan criticism is valid but Evertonians' discontent could onset an irreversible slide for the club
DONNARUMMA'S KEEPER AWARD IS IN THE RIGHT HANDS
Lionel Messi’s seventh Ballon d’Or is controversial, but it is harder to argue with the Lev Yashin award to goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
He was acknowledged as Italy’s key player in the European Championship, winning two penalty shootouts — including one against England in a Wembley final — and did not concede more than one goal in a game. It was a magnificent achievement.
The claim by Patrice Evra, therefore, that Edouard Mendy was denied by a racist conspiracy is simply peculiar. Mendy has been exceptional but didn’t play a full season for Chelsea and, while a Champions League winner, was not the star of that particular show, unlike Donnarumma.
It will have been a close contest but had either won, there could be no complaints. There is certainly not the argument that followed Messi to the stage.
There can be no arguing with Gianluigi Donnarumma's winning of the Lev Yashin award
BIELSA IS STRUGGLING TO CONJURE UP FIRST SEASON MAGIC
Marcelo Bielsa’s reputation has taken a bit of a battering this season. There are those only too happy that a fashionable name is struggling to recreate his impressive first Premier League season with Leeds.
Yet that is what life is like outside the elite, even for a brilliant mind like Bielsa’s. It only needs a few key injuries, such as those to Patrick Bamford and Luke Ayling, and the odd poor signing, such as Junior Firpo, and any of 14 clubs can end up in a relegation battle.
Leeds’ travails this season only put into sharper relief the miracle that is performed, year in year out, by Sean Dyche at Burnley.
LATVIA WOMEN SO MISMATCHED, EVEN SAN MARINO LOOK GOOD!
There were 19 winners in the European qualifying matches for the 2023 edition of the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday and, between them, they scored 98 goals. That’s an average of 5.15 per game. If a 5-0 win is standard, it’s a desperate look for the sport.
Yet that’s not the half of it. In Group D, England have a goal difference of 53 in just six games and are yet to concede. Their average score is approaching 9-0. Their aggregate over Latvia across two matches is 30-0. And they are not alone. Spain are 43 goals up across five matches in Group B and are also yet to concede. That’s a shade under 9-0, too.
The disparity in quality during these Women's World Cup Qualifiers was highlighted this week
Meanwhile, at the bottom, Armenia and Latvia have both conceded 46 goals — although Latvia have played a game less — the Faroe Islands 40, Cyprus 30. Undoubtedly, this disparity harms the standing and value of women’s football.
Yes, there are mismatches in the men’s game, too, and they are often the subject of debate. What is the point of San Marino, it is asked, when they have never won a competitive match?
Yet they have never lost one 20-0, which Latvia’s women did against England this week, a pitiful display the worth of which was questioned by England coach Sarina Wiegman and a parent of one of the Latvians. For all the tributes to Ellen White and her impressive scoring record — 48 goals in 101 appearances — a scoreline like that distorts the annals because it is so plainly an inferior contest.
Coming later to the concept of a European competition — the first women’s edition was in 1984, the inaugural