ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
If Liverpool's decision to chart a private plane to bring Philippe Coutinho back from Brazil seemed a strange way to reward a player with one goal in almost five months, it was justified.
He has been injured and off-form, but yesterday he was classy and clinical, a big-game player suddenly returning to his best and deciding a Merseyside derby that positions Liverpool to finish in the top four and makes it extremely unlikely that Everton will.
"The boys did everything," said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. "It was a well-deserved win."
After Roberto Firmino, his travelling companion, set up the first goal, Coutinho scored the second and provided the third.
His brilliance proved decisive on a day when the shortcomings in the Everton squad were highlighted.
Goalkeeper Joel Robles barely moved for the first two goals and turned his back on Liverpool's third.
Matthew Pennington, the reserve thrust into the Everton side beset by a series of injuries, scored but struggled defensively.
It might have been different had Everton not been deprived of Seamus Coleman, Ramiro Funes Mori, Morgan Schneiderlin and James McCarthy.
Had they been fit, Pennington would not have started.
Instead, Coutinho tormented him. Each of Liverpool's three goals reflected in part hesitant defending from the newcomer.
Their late match-winner at Goodison Park in December opened the scoring early on.
Sadio Mane shot through Pennington's legs, following an exchange of passes with Firmino and a diagonal run.
Pennington's strategy of allowing Coutinho to turn infield and shoot on his favoured right foot almost cost Everton when the playmaker's effort was pushed up in the air by Robles and Phil Jagielka had to clear off his own line.
He did not learn a lesson. The Brazilian skipped inside again and shot with unerring accuracy.
"His finish is great," Koeman admitted.
"A world-class goal," Klopp added.
Pennington was backing off Coutinho, seemingly scared of the flair player, when he set up Divock Origi to add Liverpool's third.
The loss of the injured Mane, who will miss Wednesday's game against Bournemouth, had represented a worry. His replacement Origi struck inside three minutes.
Outclassed defensively, Pennington at least impressed in one box. He marked his fifth Premier League start, and first of the season, with a close-range finish after Liverpool failed to clear a corner.
"We played four players of 22 or under," Koeman said in an odd assessment. "I am proud of my team."
But his supposed stars failed to perform. Romelu Lukaku was muted, while Ross Barkley was lucky to complete the game.
"Maybe he deserved two yellow cards," Koeman admitted, before railing at Liverpool assistant coach Peter Krawietz who, he claimed, was urging the referee to show Everton eight red cards.
There were none, but the damage had been done in the form of a third straight derby defeat.