Derby County were given a lesson of football being played at the highest level as in-form Liverpool secured their place in the Fourth Round of the EFL Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win.
Estonian defender Ragnar Klavan broke the deadlock after an even start to the contest, but Jürgen Klopp’s side really stepped on the gas in the early stages of the second half to put the seal of approval on the victory.
Outstanding on the night, Philippe Coutinho added a second and turned provider for Divock Origi’s third, before the Reds comfortably wound down time to seal the victory at the iPro Stadium.
The first half was a much tighter affair, but unexpectedly, the early stages saw a Derby County side, showing five changes, largely trying to contain a Liverpool side oozing confidence.
The Reds’ display at Chelsea last Friday said as much as they recorded a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge and they quickly set about trying to put early pressure on Jonathan Mitchell.
On eight minutes, the Derby goalkeeper, making only his second appearance for the club, watched Roberto Firmino lash an effort over the crossbar.
That aside and Pearson’s side settled quickly into this contest, looking comfortable in possession as they looked to craft their own early openings.
The best of those fell to Bradley Johnson, restored to the hosts’ midfield, as he saw a header easily claimed by Loris Karius in the Liverpool goal from a free kick, but with matters on an even keel, the visitors showed their quality to take their chance when it came.
Coutinho stood over a corner on the right side and after the Derby backline failed to deal with the Brazilian’s delivery, Klavan was in the perfect position to smack a low shot into the bottom corner of Mitchell’s goal.
The Rams’ goalkeeper was busy shortly after, palming away Origi’s firm drive as Liverpool began to turn the screw, whilst he also had to react quickly to turn behind a Coutinho effort too.
Despite that, Derby could have found themselves on level terms at the interval as Darren Bent latched on to a fine through ball, but Karius was quick out of his area to mop up the danger as Liverpool entered the interval in front.
It proved crucial as the visitors stepped on the gas to hit two further goals in quick succession to turn a narrow half time lead into a significant margin before the hour mark.
Coutinho struck five minutes in, turning smartly to collect a pass from Firmino before firing into the bottom corner before Alex Pearce could nick the ball off his toe.
Four minutes later it was 3-0 – Coutinho turning provider this time as he slipped a pass into the path of Origi in the area to finish a high shot beyond Mitchell as he advanced out of his goal to close down the Belgian international.
It had been relentless. Only a fine Mitchell instinctive save prevented Firmino from adding a fourth on 61 minutes and after that Klopp’s side entered cruise control, keeping the Rams at arm’s length as they saw the game out despite the home side’s continuing efforts to push their high-flying opponents all the way.
Derby County: Mitchell, Christie, Keogh (C), Bent, Baird (Ince, 46), Johnson, Pearce, Butterfield, Hughes, Weimann (Elsnik, 55), Olsson (Lowe, 64)
Substitutes not used: Weale, Camara, Blackman, Rawson
Liverpool: Karius, Clyne, Coutinho (Ings, 63), Firmino (Ejaria, 77), Henderson (C) (Can, 56), Grujic, Klavan, Moreno, Leiva, Origi, Matip
Substitutes not used: Mignolet, Milner, Mane, Lovren
Attendance: 26,245 (3,144 Liverpool supporters)