LONDON • Everton have not beaten Liverpool at Anfield since 1999 and in any competition since 2010.
But after Jurgen Klopp made nine changes to the side that played against Sheffield United three days earlier, the stage appeared to be set for Everton to end their wretched run against their Merseyside rivals in their FA Cup third-round tie on Sunday night.
If it was not clear enough the Liverpool manager was handing the initiative to the visitors, he also fielded three teenagers in Harvey Elliott, 16, and the 18-year-old pairing of Neco Williams and Curtis Jones - the first time that many have made the starting XI since 2012.
Yet Everton turned in what pundit Jamie Carragher described as "the worst derby display at Anfield in 35 years", slumping to a 1-0 away loss to an experimental side, including Pedro Chirivella and two debutants in Nathaniel Phillips and new signing Takumi Minamino.
It was little wonder that manager Klopp was beaming after Jones' wonder strike sent the Reds through to the fourth round.
He said: "I saw a sensationally good performance from a not-very-experienced team.
"A lot players for the first time playing on this stage in front of this crowd and this type of opponent. It was outstanding. I loved each second of the game."
Taking a swipe at pundits who said his selection disrespected the competition, he added: "We never take the cup for granted.
"I would love to see a few people and ask them what they thought about the line-up, and all these bad things (said) about me and the FA Cup and (about) no respect."
The German also reserved special praise for academy product Jones, who is knocking on the door of the first team, saying: "A Scouser, very confident. He has made big steps. He will be a Liverpool player if nothing strange happens, 100 per cent."
On Japan forward Minamino, who moved from Red Bull Salzburg earlier this month for £7.25 million (S$12.9 million), Klopp hailed his seamless integration into the team, adding: "Super, outstanding.
"Exactly the player we wanted, exactly the player we wished for. Your first game in a team you don't know, if it's a settled team, it's already difficult - this team we threw more or less on the pitch with two sessions together.
Aged 18 years and 340 days, Curtis Jones is Liverpool's youngest goalscorer in a Merseyside derby since Robbie Fowler (18 yrs 338 days) in the Premier League in March 1994.
Liverpool have named three teenagers in their starting XI for a Merseyside derby (Elliott, Williams, Jones) for the first time since October 2012 (Raheem Sterling, Suso, Andre Wisdom), a 2-2 draw in the Premier League at Goodison Park under Brendan Rodgers.
"And then showing this kind of game understanding... attitude is outstanding, led the chasing pack so often in different situations, which I loved."
Of the burgeoning talent coming through the pipeline, Klopp said: "It's very important we give the boys this opportunity. I tell them in training that it's important not all of them go out on loan. There is something to learn here, as well. We saw these boys come closer and closer to being ready to play for us."
While Klopp basked in the world and European champions' strength in depth, his Everton counterpart Carlo Ancelotti was left fuming after naming his strongest possible team, only for the players to flop.
Confirming he would hold a dressing-room inquisition, the Italian, who suffered his second straight defeat since taking over last month, said: "I am not used to speaking to the players after the game but I am going to speak to them about this.
"We lost energy, we lost confidence, we were not able to build up quick from the back. We are going to speak all together and find a solution to try to improve the team."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS