Before the season started, many an Evertonian might have been eyeing this fixture as the one where the Blues would finally end their wait for a first derby victory since 1999. Back in August, with £100m on new players spent and the promise of more to come, 2017-18 felt like it could be the one where we could travel to Anfield as equals and with genuine prospects of winning.
15 League games and four months of the ruinous Ronald Koeman reign later and those expectations had been radically scaled down. Avoiding a Martinez-scale 4-0 humiliation was, perhaps, top of mind and, let's be honest, if we'd been offered a point before kick-off, we'd have taken it; if ever a performance needed to be viewed in its proper context, this was it.
Retaining the perspective of that context and the eventual reward of a point was important because this was a horrible match to watch from the Blue perspective. The 79% of possession ceded to Liverpool was, apparently, a Premier League record, which is not surprising.
Everton probably couldn't have given the ball away more if they had tried; even Sam Allardyce, a manager given to direct, back-to-basics football, was critical afterwards of his side's inability to keep possession at even the most basic level. And yet, the Blues escaped Anfield with a point, extended their unbeaten run to four games and took another step on the road to stability in a season that was spiralling into chaos just a fortnight ago. Again, context.
That Allardyce somewhat surprisingly fielded two strikers in Oumar Niasse and Dominic Calvert-Lewin was an indication that his game plan was based on more than just defending. Unfortunately, the two spent so much time chasing wayward balls forward from Jordan Pickford that they were never able to get close enough to form any kind of partnership.
It meant that the ball kept coming back at Everton time after time but two dogged banks of four bolstered by gritty performances from Mason Holgate and Jonjoe Kenny and the workrate of Idrissa Gueye meant that it would take a special piece of individual play for Liverpool to get their noses in front by half time.
For all the crowing about Jurgen Klopp's attacking quarter — he had the hubris to leave two of the four, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino on the bench — they had really only threatened on one occasion prior to the 42nd minute when Mohamed Salah had skinned Cuco Martina down Liverpool's right flank and crossed to James Milner at the back post but Kenny did well to block the shot.
The reds generally struggled to play their way through the Blues' back line but Salah took matters into his own hands when he shoved Martina away from a challenge just inside the box, dribbled past Gueye and bent a shot around Pickford and inside the far post.
What should have been 2-0 and, effectively, game over came in first-half stoppage time. Sadio Mané easily side-stepped Ashley Williams as he committed himself to a sliding tackle he had no hope of winning and raced into a four-on-one situation with just Martina and Pickford in front of him but rather than squaring it for Salah, the Senegalese international went it alone and screwed his shot across goal and wide.
Salah himself would also missed a gilt-edged chance to render his manager's post-match tantrum moot two minutes on the other side of the break when he headed narrowly wide with a free header from Milner's cross.
Niasse had been withdrawn by Allardyce at half time in favour or Aaron Lennon — the winger with his industry was a positive addition — and Calvert-Lewin remained on the field to provide the outlet that eventually won Everton only their second penalty at Anfield in 80 years.
In between, it was something akin to a training-ground exercise of attack-versus-defence; it was one-way traffic towards the Everton goal but apart from an overhead kick from Mané, Pickford had nothing to do. That established the platform from which Everton could remain in the game until it entered the final quarter of an hour to then grab the equaliser.
Rooney raked a ball over the top and behind the home side's defence for Calvert-Lewin who knocked it on into the Liverpool box with his thigh with Dejan Lovren on the chase. The defender ended up shoving the striker in the back and seeming to make contact with his right leg sending him crashing to the turf and prompting referee Craig Pawson to point to the spot.
Rooney smashed the resulting penalty straight down the middle with Mignolet diving in vain to his left and it was 1-1.
Again, Liverpool's much-vaunted forward line, with Firmino now on for Salah and Coutinho having replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, couldn't find their way past Everton's resolute defence. Coutinho would have one chance from a direct free-kick after Morgan Schneiderlin had scythed Milner down in a dangerous area but Pickford read the Brazilian's intent and saved the ball from flying into the top corner.
Everton will hopefully not play this ineffectively in an attacking sense again this season but there is no question that while no Blue will have enjoyed the performance, it yielded a satisfying result, particularly given how worked up Klopp and Lovren were at the final whistle.
The point ensured a share of the spoils, avoided another painful derby defeat and keeps us in 10th place with two games against teams below us up next. And all the while, Allardyce and his team are learning about the players they inherited and what they need when the January transfer window opens in three weeks' time. It will be interesting to see how things look at the end of January.
Sam Allardyce names an attacking side for his first Merseyside with Oumar Niasse leading the line.
He takes across Stanley Park a team that was, until very recently in a tailspin, seemingly headed for a relegation battle but which has now won three games on the bounce with three clean sheets and can start looking upwards again rather than over their shoulders.
Allardyce chooses an attacking side with Calvert-Lewin, Rooney, Sigurdsson and Niasse, who replaces Lennon, named to start; Schneiderlin is on the bench. Liverpool start with Coutinho, Can and Firmino named only as substitutes with Solanke getting a start upfront.
Everton kicked off in falling snow with a hoof upfield and out of play. Liverpool replied in similar fashion, but then pressured Williams and forced a turnover, Henderson firing well over. Davies was caught late by Milner; Kenny fired the free-kick a little too deep.
A pattern developed with Everton clearing long, lossing possession, Liverpool building slowly and not getting much change from the Everton defence. Everton's biggest failing was not even attempting to play the ball out of defence. Man got into space but slipped at the crucial moment.
A long ball from Sigurdsson saw Mignolet out a long way to just beat Niasse to the ball. When Niasse did try to play forward, he lost the ball and allowed more pressure on Everton, whose defending was becoming increasingly desperate with wave after wave of red attacks, Niasse getting back to defend well. Liverpool's first corner repelled easily enough.
Calvert-Lewin did well to win the ball and hold off Lovren but was wrongly called for a foul. Mane got to the by-line but fired at Pickford. Gana then tackled Mane brilliantly on the edge of the Everton area but the red wave kept coming with the long hoof back upfield not sticking.
Gomez followed in on Martina, raising his knee,but not being cautioned. The long Everton free-kick form deep was turned over immediately, Kenny was having to work like a Trojan and missed one clearance but the Blues had survived the early onslaught and finally started to play the ball on the ground, a sharp ball in too strong for Calvert-Lewin.
Milner drew a foul from Kenny, Oxlade-Chamberlin whipping the ball way across goal and out. Rooney was struggling to make any impression on the game, with rare opportunities to pass the ball. At the other end, Milner thought he could shoot but it was deflected behind for a second corner, defended away. Rooney then did well to force Milner into the advertisements.
Jonjoe Kenny was becoming imperious in defence, stalling, stopping, tackling and blocking like a man possessed. Salah tried to dribble his way through four players and just ran into a wall of Blue and White. Rooney finally got a chance to play in Niasse but his first touch was poor.
Sigurdsson slipped and caught Henderson's ankle and picked up the first yellow card from Craig Pawson. Another spark of forward play form Niasse and Calvert-Lewin was snuffed out quickly and Kenny again lashing the ball clear on the next Liverpool attack. Liverpool then tried one over the top, straight to Pickford.
Gana was the next in the book for a tackle form behind on Gana, and from the free-kick, Salah did his magic, beating Martina and Gana to curl an unstoppable shot into the far top corner of the Everton net. So much for the first-half gameplan, which had almost worked.
Salah tried another one that deflected away off Williams's head. Shots then from Oxlade-Chamberlin and Henderson were blocked. Mane then got loose and ran at Pickford but drove his shot across goal with three red shirts in space. Sigurdsson came up with Everton's first shot, a weak effort easily saved, summing up the huge imbalance of the first half.
Allardyce changed things after the break, pulling off Niasse and Davies, with Schneiderlin and Lennon replacing them. Surely that should have been the starting line-up?
Liverpool threatened from the off and a cross to the far post required the brilliant intervention of Kenny. But a repeat ball form the right from Milner found Salah who incredibly headed wide of the open Everton goal.
Rooney picked out Calvert-Lewin's run but his finish was poor, missing Sigurdsson's supporting run. At the other end, again Kenny with a vital touch as the screws were turned even more, Liverpool winning a corner, Lovren ready to score when Holgate flicked the ball cleverly away from him. Salah almost repeated his trick, then from a corner, he skied it miles over into the kop.
Everton had nothing to show in terms of out-ball, more like turnover-ball each time they had a rare chance to play forward, exemplified by a hopeless ball to no-one from Martina. More desperate defending, and a very poor clearance from Martina led to another corner, the red pressure relentless.
Oxlade-Chamberlin put in a wicked cross that somehow was not converted, Pickford getting a vital touch for the 11th Liverpool corner, Pickford picking the deliveryoff the top of Man's head. Lennon gave away a foul that Salah curved in well and Gomez headed onto the roof of the Everton net. Everton got forward but could only do ridiculous head-tennis until they inevitably lost the ball.
Everton really had absolutely no idea what to do with the ball when they did cross the half-way line, and posed zero threat to the supposedly fragile Liverpool defence. Gana did well to stop Firmino inside the Everton area.
For the first time, Everton strong togethr 3 or 4 passes, Kenny swung on a superb cross and it was headed behind for a corner. Sigurdsson's delivery was good enough but Mignolet punched it out, then plucked the return cross out of the air to deny Calvert-Lewin.
Kenny did brilliantly to pick out Rooney who delivered a superb ball to Calvert-Lewin, under pressure from Lovren, he went down...PENALTY! Wayne Rooney absolutely rammed it home straight down the middle!!! No doubt the review panel will be looking to ban Calvert-Lewin for successfully deceiving the match official.
The goal was just what the game needed, with Liverpool suitably furious, Lovren going in the book for his protest. They attacked again and again into the final 10 minutes, with Phil Jagielka replacing a slow-walking Wayne Rooney.
Schneiderlin went in late on Milner, setting up a dangerous free-kick that Coutinho fired toward the top corner but Pickford was perfectly positioned to grasp it out of the air.
The Blues were tiring and presumably under instruction not to press for a second goal that could win this game, poor passing continuing to invite the home side onto them. But Sigurdsson got a chance to deliver a fearsome free-kick that needed defending away.
Into four minutes of added time, Robinson delivers a fine ball to the far post where Firmino was inches away from scoring. More Red attacks followed, Henderson firing well high and wide in the last minute after Coutinho could do nothing.
And so it ended, Everton with a thoroughly undeserved point after an awful football performance... but that won't matter to the Blues who expected to be slaughtered by free-scoring Liverpool.
Scorer: Salah (42') Rooney (pen:77')
Liverpool: Mignolet; Gomez, Lovren L:, Klavan, Robertson; Oxlade-Chamberlain (78' Coutinho), Henderson, Milner; Mane, Solanke (82' Ings), Salah (67' Firmino).
Subs not Used: Karius, Wijnaldum, Can, Alexander-Arnold
Everton: Pickford; Kenny, Holgate, Williams, Martina; Gueye [40']; Calvert-Lewin, Davies (46' Schneiderlin [Y:85']), Rooney (79' Jagielka), Sigurdsson [Y:36']; Niasse (46' Lennon).
Subs not Used: Robles, Keane, Vlasic, Lookman
Referee: Craig Pawson
If there's a prevailing mood these days among Evertonians when it comes to the Anfield derby, it's surely one of resignation. The agonising over the ever-lengthening time since Everton's last win there, the hand-wringing over the crippling psychology that has built up over this fixture, and the desperation to beat Liverpool on their own patch for the first time in 18 years seems to have been replaced by a detached numbness that won't be dispelled until a Blues side finally does win this particular fixture.
What will be will be.
There was a realism about Everton's prospects against the Premier League's most in-form attack from new manager Sam Allardyce as well as he gears up for his first taste of the Merseyside derby.
He takes across Stanley Park a team that was, until very recently in a tailspin, seemingly headed for a relegation battle but which has now win three games on the bounce with three clean sheets and can now start looking upwards again rather than over their shoulders.
They will certainly be in a better frame of mind coming into this game than they would have been a fortnight ago but they will have their work cut out to earn a fourth successive shut-out against what is a depressingly dynamic and pacy forward line.
Allardyce's comments during his pre-match press conference certainly suggested that he is under no illusions about the strength of the opposition, a team that has scored 15 goals in its last three outings and has yet to lose on home soil in any competition this season.
The 63-year-old arrived at Everton with a reputation for successfully exploiting team's weaknesses — Jurgen Klopp's reds are notoriously suspect at the back, for example — and Evertonians will be hoping he can extend the good record he established playing at Anfield with his previous clubs but Allardyce admits the preparation will start by focusing on nullifying Liverpool's strengths first.
“It's a [Liverpool] that, I have to admit, is probably in the best form it's been in since Jurgen arrived and with one of the best strike forces available in the Premier League,” he said.
“That's certainly something we'll have to master before we can think about can we get in the right areas to try and get an opportunity to score a goal, not waste the possession that we get and not let the occasion over-awe us.
“That is the most important thing — to deliver a performance that is tactically right to block off the areas that Liverpool try and work in and then how good we're going to be when we're in possession.
“I think we all know that probably won't have as much possession as Liverpool on Sunday but we have make sure we do use [what possession we get] correctly and in the right manner.
“If and when we get a chance, we need to score. We need to be very clinical in our finishing when it comes along and that will hopefully get us a good performance and a result.
“The whole occasion is a test for the players that we have. The players need to rise to the occasion. It's a one-off and however Liverpool are playing at the moment, it is a derby match and anything can happen.
“All I can ask of the players is they play their best game. It still might not be good enough against this Liverpool [but you have to] go in with a positive frame of mind and really know what your strengths are, play to your capabilities and try to get a result.”
Allardyce indicated in the presser that the players who remained on Merseyside while the younger members of the squad salvaged some pride in Cyprus with a tremendous performance against Limassol will form the bulk of the starting XI on Sunday.
The manager also confirmed that in addition to Michael Keane, who returned from injury to make a cameo off the bench in last weekend's win over Huddersfield, Phil Jagielka could be fit again. Leighton Baines is still ruled out, however, placing a significant burden on whomever is selected in the left-back or left-wing-back role — most likely Cuco Martina.
“Some of those players who played last night will almost certainly be on the subs' bench,” Allardyce said when asked if some of the standout performers last night will have played their way into contention to face Liverpool.
“They have impressed me which is something I want to see. I don't want to see people sulking and thinking, why am I here. I want to see people be professional and that's exactly what all the players did last night.”
That professionalism and commitment is the minimum of what will be demanded from Blues supporters on Sunday. Regardless of the result, they will be looking for further signs of progress while Allardcye is still in the process of assessing what he has inherited from Ronald Koeman as he looks ahead to the January transfer window and the return to action of the long-term injured.
Can the top flight's noted “spoiler” banish the mental block that Everton have had around facing the enemy from across the Park and spring a surprise? It might not be as big a deal as getting a statue made of him should he achieve it as was quipped during his press conference but it would certainly earn him a place in modern Toffees folklore.
Kick-off: 2:15pm, Sunday, 10th December, 2017
Referee: Craig Pawson
Last Time: Liverpool 3 - 1 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Jagielka, Williams, Martina, Gueye, Davies, Rooney, Lennon, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin