Liverpool 0 Everton 0: Three lessons as Gerrard shines at Anfield
Liverpool 0 Everton 0: What lessons did we learn as the Reds were held to a goalless draw by their local rivals at Anfield?
With Philippe Coutinho employed in the pocket behind Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was asked to slot in beside Lucas Leiva as a deep-lying holding midfielder. The 32-year-old was at his talismanic best as he led by example throughout the Merseyside derby. The England skipper launched into a series of full-blooded tackles which raised the temperature of the local encounter in the opening exchanges, with Steven Pienaar and Maraoune Fellaini both on the receiving end of crunching challenges. Gerrard also made a number of timely interceptions in Pepe Reina’s area as he tracked late runs into the box by Leon Osman and Pienaar. Whilst his early contributions set the tone for what as close-fought derby, the Reds captain also brought a sprinkling of quality to the affair with a number of long-range passes to play in Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge behind the Everton defence. He also had a chance to break the deadlock with a trademark box-to-box burst but was denied by a timely Phil Jagielka block. Gerrard has missed just 18 minutes of Premier League action this term but he’s lost none of his boundless energy and he was unlucky not to be rewarded for a lung-bursting run to support Sturridge before the midfielder’s attempt was cleared off the line midway through the second half.
Distin and Jagielka thwart Sturridge
Brendan Rodgers was keen to stress that his January signing Daniel Sturridge can shine in the big-game environment ahead of the striker’s first Merseyside derby. The 23-year-old has scored seven goals and made three assists since his £12m move from Chelsea but the forward endured one of his more ineffectual performances on Sunday. Sylvain Distin and Jagielka are arguably the best centre-half pairing in the Premier League and the duo had the measure of the England international. He snatched at a few early attempts while leaving his team-mates frustrated by ignoring supporting runs and taking on ambitious shots on Tim Howard’s goal. When Sturridge was finally presented with an opportunity to add to his tally, Distin or Jagielka denied the Reds forward. In the 39th minute, a slick Liverpool move appeared to have presented Sturridge with a clear chance to test Howard but Distin swept the ball to safety with a last-ditch tackle. Shortly after half-time, Coutinho’s incisive pass released Sturridge but the Toffees keeper was alert to the danger and came out quickly to close the angle. Despite failing to take three points, David Moyes will be satisfied to see his side secure a first clean sheet in eight attempts at Anfield.
Everton fail to find Fellaini
Gerrard described Everton’s style of play as “direct” following the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park last October. It was a remark served to antagonise Liverpool’s derby rivals because this Toffees side is clearly capable of slick football, with players the likes of Darron Gibson, Fellaini and Pienaar in their ranks. But it is true that Everton looked much more threatening from set-pieces than open play with their height advantage against what is a small Liverpool side. Surprisingly, the Toffees – usually such a threat from corners and free-kicks – were unable to find their big men in the area with any sort of consistency. On the one occasion Fellaini was found in the penalty area, Jamie Carragher put the midfielder under sufficient pressure to force the Belgian to miscue his effort. Everton finally made a set-piece chance count when Distin headed past Pepe Reina in the 54th minute but referee Martin Oliver harshly disallowed the header after Victor Anichebe was deemed to have impeded Pepe Reina. The stalemate means Moyes extends his winless record against the traditional big four clubs (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United) to 45 games as Everton boss.