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Liverpool’s demise vs Everton leaves cursed Jurgen Klopp facing simple truths

When Jordan Henderson, a few yards from a well-worn technical area, collapsed in a pained heap, Jurgen Klopp could only break into a smile.

Not the infectious one, not the one that accompanies a quip, not the one that revels in a piece of attacking magic, not the one that celebrates a moment of, what he might like to call, monstrous mentality.

Nope, this was the forced, fixed, ironic smile.

A smile of the cursed.

His team down by a goal but less than half an hour gone, Henderson breaks free from an innocuous tangle with Abdoulaye Doucoure and, a couple of strides later, is struck by what looks like a groin problem.

In the seats, beneath his mask, Virgil van Dijk, no doubt, wore a regretful look.

Jordan Henderson receives medical attention

But to blame Liverpool’s domestic struggles solely on physical misfortune would, of course, be significantly inaccurate.

And to blame this derby loss on misfortune, even more so.

Everton’s win was built on a platform of defensive organisation that serves them well on the road, if not at home.

Ben Godfrey has to be in Gareth Southgate’s notebook and while the name of Tom Davies might not be on the same page, the amiable local lad has found a deeper role he clearly enjoys.

Carlo Ancelotti relied pretty much on the counter-attack but had Seamus Coleman buried a headed sitter just before half-time, it would have been an even more comfortable occasion for the Everton manager.

His opposite number, picking fights aplenty, was certainly not comfortable – and probably has not been since Pickford flattened his prize asset in the first derby of the season.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp
Klopp and his smile, which now betrays him on the touchline

Quite why that prize asset considered a visit to Anfield an essential journey on this windy evening is not clear.

Surely Van Dijk cannot have been that keen to clap eyes on Pickford again.

Yes, it sounds incredibly petty but Van Dijk was not clocking on for work.

Klopp and the Liverpool ranks could only wish for that.

They could only wish as Richarlison sauntered in behind a half-awake Ozan Kabak to open the scoring from a trademark James Rodriguez pass.

It was typically tidy work from the Colombian and a surgical finish from the Brazilian.

But it does not happen if the Dutchman is there.

Everton stars celebrate at Anfield
Everton have claimed a first Anfield win in 23 years

Neither does this run of indifferent Liverpool form, their issue in central defence the root of all their struggles.

Kabak looks only middle-of-the-road steady. Harvey Barnes got the wrong side last weekend, Richarlison this weekend.

Decent on the ball, strong enough in the tackle, Kabak might pick up the pace of the Premier League before the pubs open but don’t bank on it.

He should get a fair bit of practice after Henderson’s early departure.

The captain tried to return to the front line but succumbed to the discomfort. And when Henderson succumbs to discomfort, you know it is not trivial.

Ozan Kabak of Liverpool with Andy Robertson
Where do Liverpool go from here?

For now, Klopp will have to rely on centre-halves who are conventional but not up to elite standard.

The struggles will go on.

And they will go on if his wonderful attacking trio cannot get back into their Premier League groove.

Klopp is not daft. He clearly knows bad luck with injuries is not the sole cause of the title race surrender.

But the stark irony of Pickford’s performance would not have been lost on him – or anyone.

As Van Dijk sat huddled and incapacitated in the stand, the man who put him there was putting himself between Liverpool and any sort of reward from this game.

There was a decent early save from a Henderson volley and a decent second half stop at the feet of Mohamed Salah.

Pickford was good rather than spectacular but at least he was out there and key to this solid Everton performance.

And when Gylfi Sigurdsson tucked away the late penalty, Pickford turned towards an empty Kop and punched the air.

Klopp could only smile. A smile of the cursed.

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