Virgil van Dijk accepted the adulation of Anfield. Good things come to those who wait.
The Kop has a new hero after Liverpool's £75million signing wrote his name into derby folklore.
This was the stuff dreams are made of as the Dutchman capped a commanding debut by nodding home a dramatic late winner to break Evertonians' hearts and send the Reds into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Jurgen Klopp had urged fans not to dwell on the size of the transfer fee following a deal which made Van Dijk the most expensive defender on the planet.
And if he keeps performing like this there will be no complaints – you simply couldn't put a price on his history-making contribution to settle the 230th Merseyside derby.
It was the first time Liverpool had ever won an FA Cup tie against Everton at Anfield and a hard-fought victory means the Reds are now unbeaten in a record-breaking 16 meetings with their neighbours.
Van Dijk, who had to sit tight for six months after Southampton refused to sell him last summer, became only the second Liverpool player ever to score on his debut for the club against Everton – the other was Bill White way back in 1901.
Having let Everton off the hook when they escaped with a point from last month's Premier League fixture, Van Dijk eased fears of a repeat after Gylfi Sigurdsson had cancelled out James Milner's first-half penalty.
Talk about swings and roundabouts. A month after being on the receiving end of a controversial spot-kick against the Blues when Dejan Lovren was adjudged to have shoved Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the Reds were fortunate to get one of their own after Adam Lallana went down.
Liverpool were far from their fluent best but they were still good value for their place in the fourth round.
Having stood accused of disrespecting the FA Cup with his team selection when the Reds crashed out to Wolves a year ago, Klopp had vowed to go strong with his line up and he was true to his word.
As well as handing Van Dijk his debut, Roberto Firmino, Andy Robertson, Milner and Joel Matip were all recalled after being rested for the win at Burnley on New Year's Day.
There was also a start for Sadio Mane following his 7,000-mile round trip to Ghana for the African Player of the Year awards .
The atmosphere was electric and the opening stages were typically frenetic but quality was desperately thin on the ground.
Everton showed more ambition in the opening five minutes than they managed in the full 90 on their previous visit as they got bodies forward in support of Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The inclusion of James McCarthy gave them more bite in midfield and Yannick Bolasie provided some pace out wide.
Van Dijk oozed composure as the new boy won his aerial battles, made a number of important interceptions and used the ball intelligently. Considering the Dutch defender hadn't played for nearly a month, this was a remarkable effort.
You couldn't fault Liverpool's hunger and desire. Full-backs Joe Gomez and Robertson were both outstanding.
The Kop roared its approval when Robertson thundered into Bolasie and dumped him on his backside. This was a tricky test for the Scottish left-back but he passed it with flying colours.
Emre Can, the only member of Klopp's squad to be making a fifth successive start in the space of a fortnight, put speculation about his future to one side as he delivered another tireless shift.
Mane fired wide from distance as Liverpool struggled to make turn promising moments into clear cut chances.
Strong defensively, Gomez was also a threat going forward and his inviting cross was volleyed wide by Milner.
Bolasie whipped in a couple of fine deliveries at the other end but on both occasions Matip was in the right place to nod clear.
With passes going astray, it was all desperately scrappy but controversy brought the contest to life 10 minutes before the break.
Lallana went down in the box after tangling with Mason Holgate and Bobby Madley pointed to the spot.
Soft? Undoubtedly, but then so was the penalty which enabled Everton to earn a draw at Anfield last month.
Milner, who turned 32 on Thursday, took responsibility and coolly dinked it down the middle as Jordan Pickford dived out of the way.
Finally, the derby fuse had been lit and tempers soon flared. Firmino reacted angrily to being shoved into the crowd by Holgate and climbed back over the hoardings to confront the young defender.
Emotions were running high and the second half was much more of a spectacle as the game got stretched.
Robertson did brilliantly to prevent Calvert-Lewin from connecting with Wayne Rooney's cross.
As Everton gambled in a bid to find an equaliser, Liverpool really should have killed off the tie on the counter. But just like last month's derby the Reds were horribly wasteful.
Oxlade-Chamberlain put two gilt-edged chances on a plate. The first saw Gomez presented with a free header at the back post but he failed to hit the target. The second saw Lallana put clean through but the tiring midfielder poked wide of the upright.
Robertson's strike from a tight angle was beaten away by Pickford before Van Dijk's header was too close to the keeper.
Loris Karius had been largely a spectator but midway through the second half the Reds nodded off and paid the price – leaving themselves ridiculously exposed after Oxlade-Chamberlain's misplaced corner.
Lallana lost out to Bolasie and substitute Ademola Lookman fed the on-rushing Phil Jagielka. He teed up Sigurdsson, who coolly slotted into the bottom corner.
Klopp responded by calling for fresh legs. Gini Wijnaldum replaced Lallana and Dominic Solanke and Trent Alexander-Arnold followed for Gomez and Milner.
Just like they did at Arsenal and at home to Leicester recently, Liverpool picked their chins off the floor and went again.
With six minutes to go Van Dijk took centre stage and silenced the 8,000-strong away end.
He rose highest to meet Oxlade-Chamberlain's corner and got there ahead of Pickford to net in front of the Kop. The celebrations were manic.
Van Dijk described joining Liverpool as the “perfect match”. He's off and running in the best possible fashion.
Man of the match: Virgil van Dijk. Capped a fine debut with a dream winner.
Source: Liverpool Echo
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