|Baines o.g. 14||Osman 22|
|Suarez 20||Naismith 35|
Phew! Boy am I glad this one is over.
I feel like a bit of an idiot now for thinking that we might have had something resembling a decent game of football today. Everton have shown good form so far this season and the Reds have been playing lovely stuff in patches, so it wasn't an overly naïve assumption. What transpired of course was the usual kick'n'rush nonsense that we always get in these derbies.
It could have been very different as for the first 20 minutes we looked great. The closing down from the front was excellent and our passing looked crisp and accurate. Despite this it was the Bluenoses that had the first of the chances with Kevin Mirallas looking very dangerous down the left, as his low drive was deflected away by Daniel Agger.
The opening goal came in the 14th minute. Suso found Enrique marauding down the left and his low cross was met at the back post by Suarez. As we've come to expect from Luis at this point, his shot was off target and heading wide until Leighton Baines dangled a leg and deflected the ball past Howard. Queue a Klinsmann-esque diving celebration from the Uruguayan right in front of Moyes, which was pretty funny in all fairness.
Barely 5 minutes later and it was two as a Steven Gerrard free kick from the right was nodded home by Suarez. While the delivery was excellent it was chronically bad defending from the home side as Luis had all the space in the world to make it count.
Being 2-0 up in the derby meant it was time to dust off a few well worn clichés, the one about keeping it tight for 5 or 10 minutes being particularly apt. Unfortunately this wasn't heeded as Everton's response was immediate. Fellaini had a shot deflected wide and from the resulting corner they pulled a goal back.
Brad Jones selected to punch Leighton Baines' delivery despite not being under any pressure. However he failed to get any distance on the clearance which fell to Osman on the edge of the box, who took a touch before finishing very tidily. Sterling maybe could have done more to close down the effort but this was first and foremost a bad goalkeeping error.
That said, I believe the decision to start Jones ahead of Pepe Reina was absolutely the correct one. Reina's form has been on the slide for a few seasons now and he needs to realise the he is not an automatic selection. Jones will continue to make the odd error because he's not a particularly good goalkeeper, but this is a chance worth taking if it means we get the old Pepe back.
With that goal Everton dominated the remainder of the half with the ever-dangerous Mirallas and Fellaini at the heart of everything. The Reds simply got bullied out of it in midfield by sheer brute force. Suso and Sahin must have been wondering if they had accidentally stepped onto a rugby pitch and I'm pretty sure Fellaini had more touches with his chest than with his feet.
Luis Suarez drove inches wide from 25 yards in the 27th minute but this was very much against the run of play at this point. Fellaini almost capitalised on a Wisdom error and Mirallas was crossing on sight as the pressure mounted on Jones' goal.
The equaliser was almost inevitable when it finally arrived in the 35th minute, albeit in slightly fortuitous circumstances. Again it was Mirallas and Fellaini who were involved as the winger's mis-hit cross fell at his compatriot's feet. Fellaini was afforded far too much time to turn and pick out Steven Naismith who arrived late for a simple finish. Wisdom, Enrique, and my good friend Martin Skrtel were all culpable in what was a very sloppy goal to concede.
The half-time whistle couldn't come soon enough for the Reds now but there were still 10 more minutes to endure. Mirallas tried his luck from a tight angle but Jones was able to palm away to safety with relative ease as Andre Marriner thankfully called an end to proceedings.
With his young stars getting battered Rodgers knew changes were needed. Coates and Shelvey were introduced for Sahin and Suso at the start of the 2nd half as the Reds switched to three at the back. It was a bold move by the manager and once again showed that he is not afraid to make major changes if deemed necessary.
To a certain extent the change in formation worked as we looked more solid at the back and Wisdom wasn't as exposed. However this was also massively helped by the fact that Kevin Mirallas did not emerge for the second half. Had he stayed on the pitch I'm pretty sure the home side would've nicked this one.
In contrast to the nonsensical pinball of the first half (which naturally goes down as a "great advertisement for the Premier League" by those Sky Sports clowns) the second half was a pretty turgid affair. Fouls were ten a penny amid constant disruptions and passing from both sides fell well below standard.
One of the best chances to take the lead fell to Raheem Sterling just 4 minutes after the restart. Enrique played him in down the left and having beaten the offside trap, he fluffed his shot while trying to loft the ball over the onrushing Howard. It was a golden chance missed.
Everton took over now as they looked to find a winner. The Reds were far too deep for my liking, failing to impose their game on the opposition and not pressing the ball as they did in the first half. It was always going to be difficult in derby conditions but I still think we could have done more to control possession.
Jelavic had a near post shot saved, a dangerous Coleman cross was cleared and Fellani headed wide as the home side pressed further. Jelavic then headed badly wide in the 67th minute when very well placed. The Croatian doesn't really look like the same player he was last season.
Suarez was booked in the 71st minute when he raked the back of Distin's leg. It looked really bad on the replay but equally it could have been accidental. You can never really be sure what goes on in Luis' head. Aside from that there were a couple of decent counter attacks that the Reds wasted, on both occasions failing to use the options available on the left wing.
Gerrard had a shot deflected away in the 83rd minute but the real drama was left for injury time. A lofted ball into the box was met by Coates at the back post and Luis Suarez was on hand to smash past Howard. As I write this it is still unclear as to whether the goal was disallowed for offside against Suarez or instead for Coates climbing over Jagielka. Suarez was approximately 78 yards onside and Coates' leap looked fair enough so all things considered it looked a shocking decision.
I'm not really one to go in for the "we woz robbed" stuff because on the balance of play the Reds did not really deserve to win this game. To throw away a two goal lead under any circumstances is not good enough and a draw was probably a fair enough result. However regardless of this it's nice to get a bit of luck sometimes, deserved or not, and I'm hoping we get that at some point this season.
The younger Liverpool players will have learned a hell of a lot today, particularly Andre Wisdom who had a bit of a roasting. However they need to go through games like these and will only improve as a result.
Presumably Everton don't play like this every week and it was just typical derby fair, but it's hard to see them as being anything other than another Stoke. It's all huff and puff from them, relying enormously on Baines' delivery, Fellaini's chest and an uproarious home support to get their victories but that will only take them so far. It's a pity really because with the likes of Pienaar and Osman available they're better than that.
With Stoke and Everton out of the way now I think things will get easier from here. Most of the sides in the Premier League try and play the "right" way and in a straight footballing contest I'd fancy us against anyone. It just all comes down to being as clinical as possible when the chances present themselves.
There are eleven league games for the rest of the calendar year with only Spurs and Chelsea posing any potential problems. This is a real chance to start climbing up the table now and I think with a tiny bit of luck here and there we'll be on our way.
Subs: Shelvey for Suso (46), Coates for Sahin (46), Henderson for Wisdom (70)
Unused Subs: Reina, Carragher, Downing, Assaidi.