Everton 3 Liverpool 3: Three lessons from thrilling Merseyside derby
Everton 3 Liverpool 3: What lessons did we learn as Toffees and Reds share the spoils in a thrilling Merseyside derby?
Set-pieces decide the Merseyside derby
Liverpool haven’t been prolific from set-pieces during the past few seasons but in recent weeks, the Reds are starting to pose a threat from dead-ball situations. Steven Gerrard produced two wicked deliveries which resulted in the opening goals in a 4-0 rout of Fulham a fortnight ago – and the trend continued at Goodison Park. The Reds took the lead as Philippe Coutinho ran from Tim Howard’s near post to the back post and swept a finish past the Everton goalkeeper. Whilst the Reds have shown a new edge attacking set-pieces, the visitors were undone when it came to defending Simon Mignolet’s area as Ross Barkley out-muscled three Reds defenders to tee up Kevin Mirallas a matter of minutes later. Unsurprisingly, Luis Suarez did have a say on the affair. The Uruguay international, who scored a brace at Goodison Park last season, netted his ninth goal of the season with a sublime low free-kick which caught out a poorly constructed Everton wall. After Joe Allen missed a glorious chance to net Liverpool’s third, the Toffees drew level once more. Romelu Lukaku’s ambitious free-kick was initially saved by Mingolet but the Belgian capitalised on poor Liverpool defending to finish from close range. the Belgian, who scored against the Reds last season too, appeared to have headed a winner from a Toffees corner with nine minutes remaining. But befitting a frenetic derby, substitute Daniel Sturridge hoisted Liverpool level with a glancing header from a superb Gerrard delivery. Expect both Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers to work on defending set-pieces this week.
Barkley and Flanagan impress
With the influx of talent from across Europe and the world, there’s been a distinct lack of local talent involved in the Merseyside derby in recent years. Liverpool duo Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, and Everton defender Leighton Baines and Tony Hibbert have been responsible for bringing the Scouse factor to the derby in recent years. So, it was refreshing to see two upcoming local lads lining up on either side for Saturday’s early kick-off. Barkley needs no introduction following an impressive start to the season that has culminated in three England caps. The 18-year-old was one of Everton’s brightest sparks in the first half as he showed flashes of brilliance to elude challenges from Liverpool’s three-man midfield. He also showed composure to glance a header to Kevin Mirallas, which allowed the Belgian to level. With Liverpool more open in the second half, Barkley proved a constant threat on the counter-attack. Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers decided to leave out Aly Cissokho and Mamadou Sakho in favour of Reds youngster Jon Flanagan. Whilst the 20-year-old has made a handful of Premier League appearances, including a memorable performance at Arsenal under Kenny Dalglish, a Merseyside derby is a different proposition. However, Flanagan showed his eye for a tackle with a series of well-timed challenges to halt marauding pair Seamus Coleman and Mirallas, although he did look vulnerable when the Belgian managed to turn the England Under-21 international in the first half.
Rodgers pays the price for attacking philosophy
Liverpool manager Rodgers has largely stuck by a 3-5-2 variation this season to accommodate his world-class attacking players further up the pitch. It’s meant that the Reds have been forced to sacrifice defensive stability in favour of free-flowing, attacking football at times. Whilst this is all very well against the Premier League’s lesser sides, Arsenal ruthlessly exposed a lack of cover out wide as Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs impressed in a 2-0 win at The Emirates. Everton possess similarly attacking full-backs in the shape of Baines and Coleman, and as a result, Rodgers reverted to an orthodox four-man defence and narrow midfield containing Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard. The tactic worked – until the Reds boss threw caution to the wind with the scores level at 2-2. Rodgers, who has so often spoken of his attacking philosophy, opted to replace Lucas Leiva with Daniel Sturridge – a move which left the Reds horridly open at the back. Everton’s third was a result of a counter-attack which was desperately cleared by the Liverpool defence. It was mere temporary relief as Lukaku rose above his marker to net a thunderous header. Whilst Rodgers’ all-out approach was commendable, the Liverpool boss must realise that a point away to top-four rivals represents a good result.