A rip-roaring, end to end Derby ended goalless, but the Grand Old Lady showed her ferocity with a superb atmosphere for a game played passionately by both sides with neither goalie really tested.
Derby Day for the 200th league and 233rd in total of such encounters dawned with the visitors lying second in the one-horse race so many of the RS-infested media have made it out to be, courtesy of Man City having beaten Bournemouth without Eddie Howe’s side registering anything of any offensive note whatsoever.
The build-up to this eagerly awaited derby intensified from the moment divvie Origi scored at Anfield and Klippity went charging all over the pitch in a typically muted and understated celebration. The toothy Teuton then compounded his arrogance this past week by suggesting that Everton see the derby as being our ‘World Cup Final’.
So in the event that the following report is reflective of a glorious, and let’s be honest long overdue, victory for Everton, we are going to wring every last drop of celebration possible from the significance of throwing a spanner in their title challenge.
The Blues used their long 17-day break well in getting back to winning ways at Cardiff with a clean sheet, a brace from Gylfi Sigurdsson and a goal on his 100th appearance for DCL.
With Yerry Mina back in contention and Kurt Zouma available after his one game suspension, the only defensive absentee for Marco Silva was veteran Leighton Baines, so he had some serious thinking to do ahead of selecting his defensive formation. Andre Gomes was also expected to make a return to the starting line-up having been rested for 88 of the 90 minutes at Cardiff.
Looking forward to his first Goodison derby Silva commented, “First we must be ourselves, believe in ourselves. It’s a long time without a win for us, that means it’s a difficult match. I didn’t see a big difference when I managed my first derby because we were very close to winning. In that match, we deserved something more”.
Having weighed up all the possible permutations and formations, he eventually named the Blues starting eleven: Pickford, Digne, Zouma, Keane, Coleman (c), Gana Gueye, Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Bernard and Calvert-Lewin.
Across the park and despite the midweek tonking of Watford, a few nerves might have started jangling as having been nine points clear at the turn of the year, the RS had been caught and overtaken by quadruple chasing City to beautifully set-up a must-win derby for both sides.
The RS were desperate to try and regain top spot with a win while for underdogs Everton, any other result would see more pressure heaped on their neighbours. They were hoping Firmino had overcome an ankle injury but were expected to be without defender Lovren.
In his pre-match press briefing, Klippity Klopp recognised the significance of the rivalry even if there is a big gap between the clubs in the league table. He admitted, “Everton fans don’t want us to win anything and probably for our fans it’s the same. In the game it’s very emotional and passionate, I hope it’s like that again, that’s how football should be. At Goodison they really support their team, it’ll be loud, it’ll be wild and we have to deliver on the pitch”.
Knowing he had to get his team selection spot on, the German handed in his team sheet naming his starting eleven: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson (c), Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Mane and Origi.
For this potentially explosive fixture, the Premier League appointed Martin Atkinson to referee and keep things honest. Many Blues though have vivid memories of him sending Jack Rodwell off this no contact incident with Suarez a few years ago.
Goodson was at its vociferous best at kick off time, the noise barrelling around the Grand Old Lady as the Evertonians got behind the team right from the start.
A fairly even start saw the first half chance go to the Blues as Bernard got to the byeline but his cross was just too high for DCL and too long for Walcott to get on the end of.
Referee Atkinson somehow saw a booking for Walcott for a nothing challenge in the 7th minute before a nice move started by Gana Gueye saw Sigurdsson find Coleman in space on the right but his cross was easily claimed by Alisson.
Digne found DCL and a nice turn took him away from Matip and look to play Sigurdsson into the area, van Dijk clearing at the expense of a corner that came to nothing. Liverpool countered quickly with Henderson crossing for Origi with Pickford claiming comfortably. From a throw-in on their right, Salah jinked his way into the box to try a curling shot that Pickford gathered easily.
The opening quarter hour had been played at a frenetic pace with neither side getting on top. Walcott went down and referee Atkinson waved play on much to the anger of the home fans and we’re happy to see Pickford again come out on top as the visitors tried to find Mane in the area.
Digne to DCL and he found Bernard with some space to run into and cross, but Robertson was across smartly to clear the danger. A quick Liverpool move saw them get Salah in one on one against Pickford, the England keeper making a fine save and Coleman throwing himself to block the follow-up effort from Henderson.
Origi escaped a yellow card after a blatant and deliberate pull back on Walcott and on the next Liverpool raid, Salah got away from Digne but Zouma was well positioned to deny Wijnaldum at the expense of a corner.
A long ball from Keane put Walcott away on the right but after controlling the ball, he blazed his shot high and wide when he really should at least have tested Alisson.
A flowing Liverpool counter saw Salah find Robertson for a cross to the back post for Alexander-Arnold, but Lucas Digne was alert and cleared comfortably.
With just one minute of added-on time, neither side could force an opening and both went to dressing room with honours even.
Half Time: 0-0
No changes by either side during the interval and the Blues started brightly with Sigurdsson crossing from the right with van Dijk happy to hoof the ball downfield.
The next Everton attack saw them capitalise on a Liverpool error with Walcott finding Sigurdsson and van Dijk again on hand to concede a corner from the eventual cross from Coleman. From the corner swung in by Digne, Alisson made a good save to deny DCL with a good header.
An innocuous foul on Mane by Gana Gueye gave Liverpool a free kick in shooting range but Pickford saved easily from the curler from Alexander-Arnold. The next Liverpool move saw Henderson find Wijnaldum to feed Origi but his shot was well off target.
Goodison held its breath on 56 minutes as Matip was allowed to run and run and run before sending the ball into the path of Salah, Michsel Keane making a superbly timed challenge to deny the Egyptian.
Richarlison replaced Walcott on 59 minutes and Klopp counted three minutes later sending Milner and Firmino on for Wijnaldum and Origi respectively.
Everton were guilty of overplaying the ball down their left flank and this allowed Liverpool to break away with Firmino crossing for Mane, but his header was a poor one.
Schneiderlin in a very advanced position on the right cross all the way to the other side where Digne sent it back in for Richarlison but his shot didn’t test Alisson enough.
Into the final 20 minutes and both teams were going for it, the game swinging end to end in a superb atmosphere. DCL found Richarlison in space but again the cross was too strong for Bernard to make anything of it.
More changes saw Cenk Tosun replace DCL and Andre Gomes come on for Schneiderlin with a booking for Robertson in the meantime. Fabinho then saw yellow and Everton continued to pour forward. Coleman crossed from the right beyond Bernard for Gomes to collect and his cross saw Alisson happy to punch clear and van Dijk denied Bernard with a good challenge on the edge of the area.
Lallana replace Mane for the final seven minutes and he drew a free kick that saw the ball bounce around the Everton area before Keane hooked it clear.
Neither side could find a winner in the three minutes of added on time and Goodison rose to acclaim a very good performance that might, just might have seriously dented the Reds title challenge.