Neutrals might suggest this was another anti-climactic snooze fest of a Merseyside Derby, but then neutrals don’t really get it do they?
Liverpool will be marginally the happier camp as they survived a late onslaught from an Everton side who finally realised that the opposition could be beaten, and but for some disappointing finishing and bit more luck, the blue half of Merseyside would be celebrating.
Derby Day is always a bit special, but possibly this one a little less so given the somewhat differing fortunes of the two teams and indeed clubs.
Following the resounding loss to Manchester City, manager Sam Allardyce was even more in need of a turnaround in form and fortunes as the storm clouds over his tenure as Blues boss continue to gather, and more added pressure with the Blues without a victory over ‘them’ in the last sixteen attempts. Eager to have midfielder Gana Gueye back in his starting eleven, Allardyce waited as long as possible before naming his side: Pickford, Baines, Keane, Jagielka (c), Coleman, Schneiderlin, Davies, Rooney, Walcott, Bolasie and Tosun.
For them across the park, changes were expected following their equally resounding victory over City on Wednesday evening. With Mo Salah struggling with a groin strain, Klippity Klopp was expected to leave the Egyptian out and possibly rest Firmino too. They went into the game as favourites, but with one eye on their second leg against City, Klippity made changes in naming: Karius, Clyne, Lovren, van Dijk, Klavan, Henderson (c), Wijnaldum, Milner, Mane, Solanke and Ings.
The experienced, but not afraid to brandish yellow and red cards, Michael Oliver was the referee.
Despite the differing fortunes between the two sides, the game opened in the usual crackling ‘Derby’ atmosphere with an even start to the opening exchanges.
As early as the sixth minute Everton made a tactical change with Walcott and Bolasie swopping wings although they reverted back to their normal flanks shortly afterwards.
Wijnaldum fired the first effort on goal well high and wide and when a left side cross from Milner found Solanke, he too headed his effort wide of the target.
Everton responded with Tosun latching onto a loose ball and volleying just over from the edge of the box.
The visitors settled into a more patient approach, trying to lure Everton forward and on 15 minutes a cross from the right was inadvertently headed back across goal and Pickford was called upon to deny Solanke with a fine reaction save.
Everton won the games first corner that came to nothing and when Tosun and van Dijk bumped trying to get to a low cross from Bolasie, referee Oliver paid no attention to half-hearted appeals for a penalty.
A fine curling effort from Bolasie was destined for the corner of the Park End goal only for Karius to dive full length to tip it round the post.
Jordan Pickford did like wise to turn away a Milner effort after he’d been found in space on the left by a pass from Henderson.
Van Dijk tried his luck with a thirty yard free kick, but Pickford saved easily and the only other effort of a first half that the visitors had marginally the better of saw Mane curl another shot high and wide.
Introducing the Everton Mishmash!
Honours even at the break, but Everton needed to increase their intensity and stop giving ‘them’ too much respect and time on the ball.
Half Time: 0-0
Liverpool had much the better of the opening ten minutes of the second half with Bolasie in particular extremely wasteful with the ball for the Blues.
On 56 minutes Idrissa Gana Gueye made his return to the side at the expense Rooney ahead of tempers edging towards fraying as Seamus Coleman reacted to a tackle by Ings and got involved in some push and shove and verbals with Henderson.
Further changes saw Oxlade-Chamberlain replace Milner and fire high and wide with his first touch; Firmino replace Mane.
A good left wing move saw DCL, Davies and Baines combine for a cross that was just a yard too quick for Tosun.
Beni Baningime came on for Davies with a little over ten minutes to play.
DCL and Tosun worked another left side move with a great cross to the back post only for Walcott to slip and lose his footing.
The RS appeared to have settled for a draw but the Blurs were still trying for a late winner that saw Walcott cross from the right for Tosun to head agonisingly wide ahead of a rampaging run by Coleman and cross that found DCL, but his mistimed his shot and that too went wide of the target.
Full Time: 0-0
Everton will be kicking themselves after this Derby that was there for the taking, particularly from the hour mark onwards.
The Blues paid the visitors too much respect and allowed them far too much time on the ball instead of going for it in a real blood and thunder manner.
So honours even over the two league encounters, but that is really not good enough. Everton need to find more self belief and utter determination, and then performances and victories will return.