Fireworks missing on Merseyside as Reds keep powder dry
LIVERPOOL emerged from a forgettable match with their record unbeaten derby run and their Champions League preparations unscathed. Everton departed with a familiar sense of regret from this fixture as a glorious opportunity to end their eight-year wait for victory over their rivals went begging.
Three points would have flattered Sam Allardyce’s team but should have been secured when Dominic Calvert-Lewin was presented with a giltedged chance to beat Loris Karius in the 88th minute.
He miscued horribly in front of the Gwladys Street and ended the game by making a peace offering of his shirt to a young fan. He should have gifted Everton with so much more, while Cenk Tosun also squandered a late opportunity to punish Jurgen Klopp’s visitors, who have now kept an impressive eight clean sheets in their last 12 outings. A decent record to take to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
Liverpool’s priorities evidently lay elsewhere and offered Everton genuine opportunity to brighten a grim season with a first derby win since October 2010, when Roy Hodgson was in the opposition dugout.
Allardyce’s cumbersome team were unable to seize it as the benefits of form and confidence outweighed the luxury of selecting a settled side. The visitors were weakened in bodies, not belief, as they dominated possession in the first half. Everton were fortunate a full-strength Liverpool attack was not around to punish their disjointed display.
Klopp made five changes to the team that blitzed Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday, with his squad affected by injury and Tuesday’s second leg understandably in mind.
Mohamed Salah was rested completely as he receives treatment on a groin injury that is not expected to rule him out at the Etihad, while Nathaniel Clyne and Ragnar Klavan were required at full-back.
Liverpool’s injury problems continued in the warm-up when Alberto Moreno pulled out with a thigh problem. The Spanish left-back had only made the substitutes’ bench having taken a knock during his brief cameo against City.
He was replaced by Rafa Camacho, who joined Curtis Jones among the 17-year-old back-up options available to Klopp, alongside Lucan’s Conor Masterson.
Everton opened with the high tempo craved by the crowd and Klavan was almost dispossessed by Theo Walcott on the edge of Liverpool’s penalty area. It was a deceptive opening.
In Walcott and Yannick Bolasie the hosts had two fit, fast and experienced wingers up against a right-back making his first appearance of the season (Clyne) and a half-fit 32-year-old central defender making his first start since January 1 at left-back (Klavan). Yet neither seriously tested their opponent and it was Everton’s full-backs, Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, who were exposed time and again.
Klopp’s options were stretched but he was able to do the same to Allardyce’s team by stationing James Milner on the extreme left of Liverpool’s midfield and Clyne in an advanced position. The pair revelled in the space between Everton’s wingers and full-backs and gradually, to Goodison’s audible dismay, forced the hosts into a collective retreat.
Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson met minimal resistance as they controlled midfield, although Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke unsurprisingly lacked the menace of Salah and Roberto Firmino.
Solanke should have opened the scoring when Clyne’s cross rebounded into his path off Coleman’s chest but his snapshot was straight at Jordan Pickford. The Everton goalkeeper, watched by England manager Gareth Southgate, produced a fine save to tip away a Milner effort that was curling inside his left-hand post.
The stop of the game, however, came from Karius. Liverpool’s goalkeeper was a relative bystander throughout the game but underlined his growing influence in the one moment he was required.
The threat came from the first and only time that Everton broke behind Klavan down the right. Walcott released Coleman and his deep cross fell to Bolasie, who cut inside and curled a shot that was destined for the top corner until Karius made a superb fingertip save.
That was a rare show of quality from Bolasie and Everton, with the Congo international encapsulating his side’s error-strewn performance.
Klopp’s second-half substitutions reflected not only European commitments but how lightly he regarded the threat from Everton. Both his best player, Milner, and most dangerous player, Sadio Mané, were withdrawn and Liverpool’s control over the derby disappeared with them. An invitation was extended to Everton and they so nearly took it.
Eventually, belatedly, the hosts began to target Liverpool down the flanks and created several openings that should have yielded victory.
Tosun was inches away from connecting with a Baines cross that flashed across the face of Karius’s goal. When Walcott stood up an inviting cross from the right, the Turkey international outmuscled Clyne at the back post but steered his close-range header inches wide of the far post, with Coleman just failing to connect.
The chance of the game and a glorious opportunity to end Everton’s long wait for derby success fell to Calvert-Lewin with two minutes remaining. Coleman galloped down the right and his cross broke to the substitute, standing unmarked at the back post. He had time and only Karius to beat, but sliced his shot horribly wide as Everton players — to a man — held their heads in their hands in disbelief.
Everton ‘keeper Jordan Pickford gathers the ball under pressure from Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Photo: Peter Powell