Liverpool and Everton fail to spark in drab Merseyside derby

Tom Davies almost gave the home side a memorable win but his effort hit the post

Everton’s Séamus Coleman beats Liverpool’s Sadio Mané to the ball during the English Premier League match at Goodison Park. Photo: Peter Powell/Getty Images

Everton’s Séamus Coleman beats Liverpool’s Sadio Mané to the ball during the English Premier League match at Goodison Park. Photo: Peter Powell/Getty Images

 

Everton 0 Liverpool 0

Liverpool have craved a 19th league title for 30 years plus one global pandemic imposed lockdown, so what’s a few more days? Jürgen Klopp’s Premier League champions-elect were denied the victory that would have put them on the cusp of a coronation by an impressive Everton defensive display and the refusal of Carlo Ancelotti’s players to yield.

But for a Tom Davies shot that struck the inside of Alisson’s post in the 80th minute Liverpool would have been condemned to only their second league defeat of the season and first derby reverse in 10 years. The league leaders dominated possession but understandably lacked their usual finesse in the final third.

Everton stood firm throughout, rarely allowing Liverpool clear sight of Jordan Pickford’s goal, and though Klopp became the first manager in Liverpool’s history to go 11 derbies unbeaten from the start of his reign he departed with several injury concerns. The title will not be won this week providing Manchester City emerge unscathed against Burnley and Chelsea.

There were switches in personnel. Slight knocks ruled out Andy Robertson and restricted Mohamed Salah to the Liverpool bench. January signing Takumi Minamino started for the first time in the Premier League in place of the Egypt international. For Everton, hit by injuries since the return to training, 19-year-old academy forward Anthony Gordon was handed a full debut and the task of limiting Trent Alexander-Arnold’s influence down Liverpool’s right. No easy feat.

The absence of a partisan crowd did not diminish the intensity in the early stages. Fabinho escaped an early booking for a clumsy foul on Dominic Calvert-Lewin and James Milner collected the first yellow card for scything down Richarlison. The heated exchanges that followed, with Klopp and Mason Holgate to the fore, were clearly audible and entertaining.

Rust was inevitable after three months without competitive football and showed in Fabinho’s early touches. A loose header from Liverpool’s holding midfielder presented his compatriot Richarlison with the first opportunity of the game. Everton’s Brazilian forward, driving in from the left, shot hard and low but his effort flashed wide.

The visitors’ first opening arrived when Gordon was harried off the ball by a combination of Naby Keïta and Jordan Henderson. Liverpool’s transition to attack was instant, and a feature of their entire performance, but Minamino’s drive from 18 yards sailed over. Joël Matip had the best chance of a largely uneventful first half and should have done better than to head Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick wide when arriving unmarked through a crowded penalty area. Roberto Firmino found the same spot as Matip when André Gomes was dispossessed in midfield and Liverpool almost exposed Everton on the counter attack. Sadio Mané teed up the Brazilian with a delightful back-heel from Henderson’s pass but the shot was scuffed wide.

Other than Richarlison’s early chance, however, the hosts rarely retained possession long enough to trouble Alisson. Ancelotti’s side made a number of unforced errors, with Alex Iwobi the chief culprit, while Liverpool controlled possession without finding a cutting edge before the interval. Milner departed with a suspected hamstring near the end of the first half.

Minamino was on the margins and his rare chance to impress ended after only 45 minutes. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced the Japan international at half-time as Klopp sought to inject more urgency and aggression into the visitors’ attack. Joe Gomez was introduced at left-back in the wake of Milner’s exit and both substitutes’ succeeded in stretching the Everton defence. Séamus Coleman, however, enjoyed a fine game and he thwarted Mané on several occasions.

With pressure increasing gradually on the home defence in the second half Everton’s best hope of a release was on the break. The opportunity arrived when Gylfi Sigurdsson, a replacement for Gordon, found Calvert-Lewin and the centre-forward sent Richarlison sprinting clear with a perfectly weighted lob over the Liverpool defence. The Brazilian’s pace kept him ahead of the recovering Matip but his final shot blazed over Alisson’s bar.

Ancelotti’s annoyance intensified when referee Mike Dean penalised Lucas Digne for a foul on Mané, the left-back having connected with the ball first, but Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick deflected off the wall and over.

Everton’s threat on the counter remained, and with 10 minutes remaining they were inches away from grabbing the lead. Richarlison escaped down the left and centred for Calvert-Lewin, who forced Alisson into a full-length save with an improvised flick of his left heel. The rebound fell invitingly for Davies. Derby glory beckoned, Alisson was beaten, but his shot took the slightest of touches off Gomez, struck the inside of the far post and was hacked out for a corner by a relieved Liverpool defence. – Guardian

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