Soccer games sometimes fail to live up to their billings. The 224th Merseyside derby was one such occasion.
Liverpool and Everton played to a goal-less draw Saturday in a Premier League game at Goodison Park. The Reds and Toffees shared both points in the standings and blame for a producing a spectacle that failed to match expectations. The teams were competitive throughout the tense and hard-fought contest, but they ultimately lacked the quality to win the game outright.
Liverpool’s performance level dropped from the standard it has set in recent outings. The Reds had plenty of possession but only created real danger on the counter-attack. Their passing and movement was disjointed for large swathes of the game, robbing their attack of fluency inside Everton’s half. When the Reds’ individual efforts created openings in dangerous areas, they didn’t shoot with the sharpness or authority to beat stand-in goalkeeper Joel Robles, who played his seven straight league game in the absence of injured starter Tim Howard.
Everton’s performance against Liverpool was the latest in a string of disappointments for its beleaguered players, coaches and fans. Everton now has won just one of its last 10 games (in all competitions), and the result and performance suggest that the Toffees won’t amass many more points in the coming weeks.
Those hoping Everton would produce a dynamic, attacking display watched in dismay as it failed to register a shot on goal until the 87th minute. Liverpool didn’t suffocate Everton with intense defensive pressure, either. Its three-man back line was functional, but not excellent. Everton should have capitalized when Liverpool’s holding midfielder Lucas Leiva limped down the tunnel after 15 minutes, but it persisted with unimaginative, one-paced approach play. Liverpool now is celebrating a fourth consecutive Premier League shutout — something it hasn’t achieved since February 2011.
Most of the pregame buildup centered around Steven Gerrard, who was playing in his 33rd, and probably final, Merseyside derby. Gerrard had a quiet game except for one spectacular, scissor-kick shot, which Robles saved. Otherwise, Gerrard was left to misplaced passes (both his own and teammates’) and errant free kicks in his last league outing against his hometown rivals.
While Gerrard flickered, Jordon Ibe sparkled in his Merseyside derby debut. Ibe, 19, started just his second Premier League game, but he played with pace, poise and purpose, which belied his rookie status. Ibe had the best goal-scoring chance of the game in the 27th minute when dribbled 40 yards and rocketed a shot off the post. Ibe won most of his battles with fullback Brian Oviedo and prompted the referee to caution the Costa Rican for an overly agressive tackle in the second half. Starting Ibe was Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers’ big call in the Merseyside derby, and it worked in the Reds’ favor.
Liverpool retains local bragging rights with the draw — due to its higher position in the standings (seventh versus 12th) and recent results. The Reds also preserve their ongoing revival and maintain momentum ahead of Tuesday’s Premier League game against Tottenham at Anfield and next Saturday’s FA Cup fifth round clash with Crystal Palace.
Thumbnail photo via Clint Hughes/The Associated Press