Everton 2 Liverpool 2: Lessons from a pulsating Merseyside derby
Everton 2 Liverpool 2: What did we learn as Luis Suárez was denied a late winner at Goodison Park in the Merseyside derby?
Suárez lets his goals (and celebration) do the talking
In the build-up to the Merseyside derby David Moyes, perhaps in a bid to affect Andre Marriner’s approach to Luis Suárez, branded the Uruguayan a diver. “I would [be concerned about Suárez] because I think he has got history,” Moyes said. “We’ve got to be careful. People are going to turn away from football if they continue to go to watch people who throw themselves on the ground when they’re not touched”. Of course, Suárez played a big role in the 2-2 draw, and the 24-year-old opened the scoring at Goodison Park. In the 14th minute, Jose Enrique’s cross beat Raheem Sterling and the Everton defence but found its way to Suárez on the left of Tim Howard’s area – the striker fired the ball back across the box, with Leighton Baines deflecting the cross into his own net. Suárez raced to Moyes before and dived like a swallow to deliver his own unique retaliation to the Everton boss. Shortly after, it got better for the former Ajax man when he glanced Steven Gerrard’s deliciously curling free-kick past Everton’s American goalkeeper to double the visitors’ lead. Suárez worked tirelessly throughout the second half despite minimal support and poor service from his team-mates. Deep into stoppage time, he looked as if he would have the last say in a hotly-contested derby. Another Gerrard set-piece was headed back across goal by substitute Sebastián Coates, with Suárez drifting past two defenders and stabbing the ball into the roof of the net. It was ruled out for offside – incorrectly – although Everton were value for their point.
Baines frustrates Sterling
One of the most intriguing battles at Goodison Park was between two of England’s in-form players. Leighton Baines has earned plenty of plaudits and an England spot since the start of the Premier League season, while Raheem Sterling has impressed since being introduced to the Liverpool starting line-up against Manchester City in August. Not many have managed to temper the young 17-year-old so far this term, but Baines, aided by the ever-willing Kevin Mirallas managed to frustrate the former Queens Park Rangers youngster in the first half. Struggling to manufacture space to turn and run at the Toffees defence, Sterling was booked for a late challenge on Baines in the 28th minute. Moments later, another silly challenge on the defender left Sterling teetering on the brink of a first dismissal. In a bid to avoid being reduced to 10 men, Rodgers switched Sterling to the left wing before moving the forward into a more central position in the second half. The Reds boss had insisted before the match that his youngsters were up for the rigours of a feisty derby, and while none of his starlets – Sterling, Suso, Andre Wisdom – let the Northern Irishman down, they did struggle to make a telling impact. Perhaps an underwhelming performance was epitomised by Sterling’s miss in the 49th minute. Enrique’s glorious pass was perfectly timed for Sterling who had just Howard to beat – the England Under-21 international miscued an attempted chip with the ball skidding towards the corner flag.
Jones struggles with Reina sidelined
With Pepe Reina still struggling with a hamstring injury which forced him to miss the Europa League victory over Anzhi Mackhachkala on Thursday, Brad Jones started his third successive game in the Liverpool goal. The Reds first-choice goalkeeper has struggled this term, leading many to suggest Jones could be in line for a sustained run in the first-team. However, the Australian does not command the same aerial presence as Reina, particularly when it comes to set-pieces. Moyes had instructed Steven Naismith to stand in front of Jones for each free-kick and corner, and the tactical move paid dividends. In the ninth minute, the goalkeeper managed to get an unconvincing palm on a cross to avert danger, shoving Naismith out of his path. With Liverpool 2-0 up, another set-piece led to Everton gaining a foothold in the derby, with Jones unable to get any distance to his punch and allowing Leon Osman to fire a low effort into the bottom corner. Less blame can be attributed to Jones for Everton’s leveller, with Enrique culpable for allowing Naismith to run past him and drive the ball into Reds’ net. But, if Reina had been present, perhaps he could have been more efficient in alerting his compatriot to the danger. There was an uncertainty in Liverpool’s defence which is usually absent with Reina in goal. Expect Rodgers to revert back to the former Villarreal man against Newcastle United next weekend.
Everton and Liverpool rivalry finely poised
Liverpool may have been denied a 93rd-minute winner by an officiating error, but Everton more than merited a point after a swashbuckling display against a very young Reds side. Moyes’ men were superior in most statistical categories to Rodgers’ men: 16 attempts on goal to 13, 314 completed passes to 241, 56 per cent possession to 44 per cent and 20 interceptions to 13. With Everton finally brushing off the unwanted tag of perennial slow starters, their 1-0 victory over Manchester United on the opening day has helped Moyes’ men kick on in a bid to finish in the top four – this point propels them ahead of Arsenal into fourth place. Meanwhile, Rodgers is still creating a side in his own vision which will take time and patience. With Everton and Liverpool both on an upward curve, it appears the Merseyside rivalry has never been so finely balanced, although, Everton have now only won one of their last 12 Merseyside derbies – the last victory was a 2-0 home win in October 2010.