Liverpool boost top-four bid with derby rout
Liverpool's English striker Daniel Sturridge (L) celebrates after scoring his first goal with English midfielder Jordan Henderson (R) at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool, northwest England, on January 28, 2014 - by Paul Ellis
Everton have not won at Liverpool since 1999 and the 222nd meeting between the two sides –- both previously unbeaten in the league in 2014 -- was effectively over by half-time, with Liverpool three goals up.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said in his programme notes that this derby had "double significance", with vital points in the race to qualify for the Champions League at stake in addition to local pride.
But the Northern Irishman could probably not have envisaged the clinical manner in which his team would blow Roberto Martinez's men away, with a double from Sturridge and one each for captain Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez.
England striker Sturridge could even afford to miss a penalty as fourth-place Liverpool put four points between themselves and Everton in the Premier League table.
Liverpool made three changes as Simon Mignolet replaced Brad Jones in goal, Jon Flanagan returned for Martin Kelly at right-back, and Raheem Sterling was preferred to Victor Moses on the right flank.
Everton, meanwhile, were bolstered by the return of midfielder Ross Barkley from a broken toe.
Toffees captain Phil Jagielka had also recovered from the hamstring injury he picked up in the FA Cup victory over Stevenage and made his 200th league appearance alongside Antolin Alcaraz at the heart of the visitors' defence.
Barkley looked sharp in the opening stages and struck a swerving shot from distance that flew just over the crossbar, while Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard was called into action moments later as he pushed a Suarez shot past the post.
Sturridge opened up the Everton defence in the 18th minute as he sent Sterling clear with a searching pass, but Howard came off his line quickly and blocked the winger's effort.
The hosts' spell of pressure earned them a goal three minutes later when Suarez's corner picked out Gerrard, who escaped his marker at the near post and headed home his eighth goal in Merseyside derbies.
Everton were subsequently forced to withdraw Romelu Lukaku due to injury, although without the Belgium international they still pressed for an equaliser, as Jagielka brought a save out of Mignolet.
However, Liverpool effectively made the result certain 10 minutes before half-time as Sturridge scored twice in the space of two minutes.
The 24-year-old striker was put through on goal by playmaker Philippe Coutinho in the 33rd minute and kept his composure to lift the ball over the advancing Howard.
Moments later the hosts added a third when Kolo Toure's long ball found Sturridge and with Howard off his line, the England man cleverly lobbed the ball over the American international and into the unguarded net.
Everton initially responded positively after half-time, with Mignolet forced to palm away a Leon Osman shot, but Liverpool remained hungry for goals and added a fourth five minutes into the second half.
Suarez dispossessed Jagielka just inside the Everton half and powered towards goal before coolly slotting past the exposed Howard.
Howard's misery continued when a penalty was given against him by referee Martin Atkinson for a foul on Sterling, but Sturridge, on a hat-trick, struck the spot-kick over the bar and into the Kop.
Suarez was angry with Sturridge just after the hour-mark when his strike partner selfishly went for goal from a difficult angle rather than square the ball across goal.
Everton briefly flickered into life with 15 minutes left when Steven Naismith crossed for Osman, but Mignolet snuffed out the danger.