Fire­works miss­ing on Mersey­side as Reds keep pow­der dry

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - ANDY HUNTER

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

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