By the end at Anfield, Jordan Pickford must have wished there was a full house after all.
The Everton No 1 would have arrived at yesterday’s Merseyside derby grateful to escape what would have been one of the most hostile receptions ever from the Kop following the events of last October.
But come full-time, you just knew this ultra-confident keeper would have loved lauding this famous win over home fans after what was a stand-out personal performance.
Jordan Pickford put in a commanding display to rid the ghosts of the last Merseyside derby
For those with short memories — and they will not include Liverpool supporters — it was Pickford who put Virgil van Dijk out for the season with his reckless lunge at Goodison Park in the autumn.
He somehow avoided being sent off for the challenge which damaged Van Dijk’s knee, something even referee Michael Oliver later admitted was an error.
But Pickford received no end of abuse from Liverpool fans on social media, including vile death threats, which forced the 26-year-old to hire a security team to protect his home.
So you shudder to think at the kind of reaction he would have received had this return fixture been played out in front of a crowd.
The England No 1 made a series of crucial saves to protect the Toffees’ lead at Anfield
The 26-year-old was imperious between in goal to deny the champions an important equaliser
If Pickford was lucky on that score, he was arguably fortunate also to even be in goal given his form since that last derby.
Of his most recent displays, he cost his side two points when he let Youri Tielemans’ strike squirm from his grasp in January.
And then, after four games out with a rib injury, he returned to Everton’s side in their 3-1 midweek defeat to Manchester City, when he should have done better with Bernardo Silva’s goal.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti will also know Pickford carries scars from this ground.
The spotlight had been on Pickford following his role in Virgil van Dijk’s injury this season
Possibly the lowest came in December 2018 when, in the 96th minute, he inexplicably clawed a loopy shot from Van Dijk back into play from above his crossbar — and Divock Origi scored a last-gasp winner.
But Ancelotti continues to ignore calls from some Evertonians to make Robin Olsen his new No 1.
‘The performance of Pickford and the four at the back was really, really good,’ said Ancelotti.
‘This is Pickford, This is the Pickford that every one knows – confident in the goal, secure in the goal, intelligent in the goal.’
And the Italian’s unwavering faith was rewarded when in the 20th minute Pickford produced a quite sensational save.
With Everton ahead, Jordan Henderson looked like putting the hosts back on terms with a sweet volley.
But Pickford denied his England team-mate and fellow Mackem when he flew at full stretch to get finger tips on the ball.
But the Englishman responded superbly to provide the foundations for a famous victory
Had Pickford come into this clash with October’s incident clouding his thoughts, his early intervention would have cleared his mind.
He again proved he was in the mood just a minute later when he brilliantly tipped over Trent Alexander-Arnold’s curling effort. And as is not always the case with Pickford, he managed to sustain such form and focus throughout.
In the 69th minute he superbly spread his body to deny Mo Salah one-on-one when Liverpool’s talisman looked certain to score — then reacted sharply to beat Xherdan Shaqiri to the rebound.
Even in injury time he did not let his levels dip, parrying over Gini Wijnaldum’s effort from distance.
Pickford has repaid the faith of Carlo Ancelotti in putting in an assured display on Saturday
Regardless of all that mental baggage, last night was a true test for any goalkeeper given the wind that swirling around Anfield. But Pickford collected crosses with confidence and was a commanding presence throughout.
In his 150th appearance for Everton, this was Pickford at his very best — the player the Toffees hoped they were signing when they splashed out £25million to bring him from Sunderland in 2017.
At times it has felt like Everton will never challenge for Champions League places without a more reliable goalkeeper. But if displays like this become the norm, the fans may have nothing to fear.
Pickford’s contributions helped the Toffees secure their first Anfield win this century
Just as Ancelotti will have been delighted by Pickford’s display, so too will Gareth Southgate.
The England manager’s loyalty towards his 2018 World Cup hero has been admirable even if, at times, it has appeared foolhardy.
Burnley’s Nick Pope continues to state his case also, none more so than with his clean sheet against West Brom yesterday.
Yet with three World Cup qualifiers next month, ahead of this summer’s European Championship, this was a timely reminder from Pickford of just why he continues to be Southgate’s man.