There have, apparently, been more 0-0 draws between Everton and Liverpool than any other league fixture (aside: my first ever Blues match on a frigid, windswept November afternoon in 1986, was one) and it’s not even close. No doubt it’s a natural consequence of the fear each side has of losing the local grudge match but there have been eight goalless derbies since the turn of the century and were it not for Jordan Pickford’s stoppage time error in the Anfield derby last December, this would have been the third in a row.
Marco Silva has tried to play down the impact that game had on Everton’s season but it undeniably proved to be a damaging result. Pickford atoned somewhat this afternoon with a vital first-half save, Michael Keane came to the rescue with a brilliant last-ditch tackle in the second period and there were also important interventions inside their own penalty area from Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne.
That told the somewhat predictable story of Liverpool’s greater attacking penetration but it was also illustrative of how an Everton side that has had it’s share of defensive collapses this season put in a doggedly determined display and helped disrupt a much-vaunted reds attack to ensure that Jürgen Klopp’s team dropped another two points in their title race with Manchester City.
If Liverpool had a twelfth man at times in the form of Martin Atkinson, who skirted serious controversy by at least keeping his red card in his pocket but was still guilty of some mystifying decisions, Everton had theirs in the form of a raucous home crowd who generated the best atmosphere the Grand Old Lady has seen in many a year. The home faithful roared their team on from start to finish in impressive fashion, their volume and intensity rising to an unsated crescendo as Everton pushed in the closing stages for what would have been a seismic winner.
This was always going to be a question of whether Everton could compensate for a lack of quality with sheer commitment and endeavour along with the Gwladys Street End willing the ball into the back of the net. Defensively, they were magnificent but, let down by poor distribution and the frustrating attacking failings that have plagued them for much of the season, they never really looked like scoring. It needed a perfectly-executed set-piece or a moment of individual but neither came, leaving Evertonians satisfied with a laudably industrious performance and damage to Liverpool’s title bid but no end to an eight-and-a-half-year wait for a derby win.
Marco Silva made just two changes to the team that had started against Cardiff on Tuesday, restoring Kurt Zouma to central defence alongside Michael Keane and deploying Bernard out wide in place of Richarlison who dropped back to the bench. Morgan Schneiderlin’s inclusion in midfield was, perhaps, understandable on one level given his performance in South Wales but Theo Walcott’s repeated selection continues to baffle and neither player would finish the match.
Walcott was hooked like clockwork with an hour gone for Richarlison having offered very little and Schneiderlin was withdrawn with 15 minutes left in favour of André Gomes, a strategy that looked more sensible with the score goalless heading into the closing stages than it had when Schneiderlin was giving the ball away, sometimes egregiously, in midfield.
He wasn’t the only one — his compatriot, Lucas Digne, squandered possession in the fourth minute but wasn’t punished and Bernard would hand the ball straight to a red shirt later in the game trying to start a counter-attack but Schneiderlin’s was almost the most costly.
Mohamed Salah had, predictably, looked the most dangerous of Liverpool’s front three in the early going and he was found with a ball over the top with a quarter of an hour gone but great covering from Coleman denied him a chance on goal. The Egyptian was found from the eventual throw-in and he tried a curling effort that Pickford safely caught before Schneiderlin let the ball get away from him in the centre circle and in a split second Salah was put in behind Everton’s back line.
Pickford did superbly to stand his ground, however, and make the stop with a strong right hand when Salah looked certain to score and Jordan Henderson’s shot from the rebound was blocked.
10 minutes before the break, Salah was again the danger man as he twisted Digne into knots by the byline and tried to drive towards the near post but Schneiderlin was there to knock it behind to safety.
For their part, Everton had only shown flashes of promise in the final third which, considering their almost embarrassing inability to play out from the back or consistently put together anything cohesive through midfield, probably wasn’t all that surprising. Their primary attacking tactic in the first half appeared to be to pump long balls forward from Pickford towards Dominic Calvert-Lewin and when they weren’t sailing out into touch Virgil van Dijk was on hand to win practically every aerial duel.
When they did manage to get forward down the channels, they almost fashioned a couple of openings, the first coming from Calvert-Lewin’s lovely of turn past Joe Matip and early cross which was cut out only as far as Gylfi Sigurdsson and his attempted centre looking for Walcott met the same fate when it was turned behind by Van Dijk.
Another great touch by Calvert-Lewin laid the ball off to Bernard but his cross was cleared for a throw-in while Walcott carved out a half-chance for himself when he expertly controlled Keane’s lofted ball forward but couldn’t get his shot anywhere near the target.
Everton’s first effort on goal eventually arrived seven minutes after the interval when Walcott intercepted a terrible Fabinho pass and fed the ball to Coleman whose attempted cross was blocked behind. Calvert-Lewin met the resulting corner and guided a downward header looking for the far side of goal but Alisson Becker was equal to it, springing to his right to catch it in mid air.
Back at the other end, Trent Alexander-Arnold tested Pickford with a direct free kick that the keeper saw all the way and got down to save before Matip was allowed to drive through midfield and put Salah in once more but this time he was foiled by terrific covering work by Keane. The defender had initially been caught behind Georginio Wijnaldum but covered the ground between he and Salah and slid the ball behind with a perfectly-timed lunge.
Silva’s side continued to live dangerously, however, and when three players collapsed around Sigurdsson in the Liverpool half, the reds again transitioned quickly to attack but Sadio Mané’s header back across the six-yard box failed to find a red jersey. Van Dijk did better from a similar position following a short corner, picking Fabinho out with his header but the midfielder’s first touch in front of goal was a poor one and Digne nicked it off him before he could pull the trigger.
By this stage, Richarlison had entered the fray and diverted a tame header goal-wards from a deep Digne cross and he almost served up a goal for Bernard in the 73rd minute. Scampering down the right flank, he whipped in a low cross but it was inches off the toe of his countryman who had arrived at the edge of the six-yard box.
Tosun then replaced the tiring Calvert-Lewin and the Turk had a scuffed snapshot comfortably gathered by Alisson before Matip bounced a decent chance wide with a header from a corner and Digne was tripped by Alexander-Arnold right on the edge of the visitors’ box. Unfortunately, the Frenchman’s set piece sailed over everybody and harmlessly out of play.
There was a sense of hope and belief in those final few minutes that Everton had the upper hand and that if there was to be a winner it would be the Blues but they just couldn’t fashion a clear opening.
Given everything that has transpired since the calamity in Anfield in December, this was a hugely creditable and well-received result for Everton as thy became only the third team to stop Liverpool this season.. While it’s true that Klopp’s attacking unit was not firing on all cylinders after seemingly getting back in their groove in midweek with a 5-0 hammering of Watford, it was due in no small part to the tenacity with which Silva’s men went about their business — pressing from the front and defending strongly at the back.
Going forward, however, where Silva’s seeming inability to instil a fluid and effective passing game persists, they were hugely disappointing and that meant that Liverpool’s goalkeeper was barely tested in the 90 minutes. As we start to look beyond the end of the season, it’s clear that some deeper, fundamental issues around quality, creativity and attacking penetration need to be addressed.
In terms of spirit and attitude, though, the players couldn’t be faulted and that will count for plenty as the management team continues to try reverse that awful form of the last few months.
Marco Silva created some waves with a team selection for the Goodison derby that included Schneiderlin and Walcott, with Richarlison, Gomes and local lads Jagielka, Davies and Kenny all on the bench.
And no sign of Ademola Lookman in the Everton squad. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was selected to lead the line.
It was a manic start in dreadful weather conditions, Everton giving up an early free-kick, Liverpool flagged offside. Coleman was up for it, conceding another angry free-kick. Poor passing from both sides set up a red attack that came to nothing. The frenetic lack of quality continued unabated.
Bernard won a throw near the left corner for what seemed to be a beautiful cross to Walcott who should have wellied it at goal but failed and then chased down Origi for a stupid yellow card. Coleman crossed into Allison's hands.
Sigurdsson surged in and crossed toward Walcott at the far post but Van Dijk put it behind. But Liverpool broke at pace from the Everton corner, Gueye fouling Sane, and won their first corner, easily cleared out by Gueye.
A bouncing ball that could have easily been converted was finally grabbed by Pickford, the pace of the game at least very lively, which was good for the Blue crowd. Everton were pressing well, but Henderson played a brilliant ball over the top to Salah, who then picked up the ball from the throw-in, but Pickford grasped it well.
Calvert-Lewin pressed Van Dijk and Allison but with little support, as Liverpool won another soft corner, headed away by Digne and behind by Firminho. Pickford played a rugby-style goal-kick, straight into touch.
A progressively more determined Liverpool attack made Everton look a little less confident in defence, getting pushed back with more consistent pressure, Everton unable to play anything approaching forward play.
Bernard attempted a forward pass that was cut out and Alexander-Arnold was off to the races, his cross blocked. Bernard tried to overlap on the left but his cross was blocked out for a throw, Digne deep into the 6-yard box but headed away. Calvert-Lewin was chasing Van Dijk but getting little change for his efforts.
Suddenly, Salah was all alone galloping forward and looked certain to score but Pickford did very well to save from close range. Another Liverpool attack caused havoc as Everton were rocked back, but the Gwladys Street goal remained intact. Desperate stuff though.
More rugby efforts from Pickford found Walcott inside the touchline, but were snuffed out. Everton tried to play out from the back, Keane passing it straight out of play. Meanwhile, another mazey run by Salah came very close, Everton under increasing pressure and, with 11 men back, unable to profit from turnovers.
Walcott got behind off a great ball from Coleman but lashed his shot miles off-target, a very rare chance totally wasted. Another up-and-under from Pickford saw Calvert-Lewin easily outwitted by Van Dijk. Robertson was given acres of space to cross deep, Digne making a vital interception at the far post.
Schneiderlin gave away a sloppy free-kick centrally, headed behind by Van Dijk. Pickford's goal-kick went straight out on the half-way line, honours kind-of even at the break.
No changes for the restart, Blues under pressure, Schneiderlin hoofing it to nowhere. Liverpool attack, Everton try to play out and run into snapping red legs. Walcott shoved away by Van Dijk, Coleman and Fabinho having words as Everton make a rare foray close to Liverpool penalty area.
Walcott snaps up the ball and Sigurdsson takes over, Coleman crossing in low, winning a corner well delivered by Digne, heaeded goalward by Calvert-Lewin but nowhere near nenough power to beat Alisson, another chance gone begging, and Liverpool break, Gueye fouling Sane.
Another Pickford hoof straight into touch, but no lineout. Salah got free, Keane in brilliantly to deny him. Keane heading the corner away, the game now more stretched, the atmosphere more intense.
A terrible spell, where Everton played pass the parcel, eventually back to Pickford and hoofed straight out of play. Desperately poor stuff. Walcott was taken off, to be replaced by Richarlison, surely a good positive move by Silva?
Richarlison won a corner off Origi, Digne putting it onto the top of Zouma's head and over the bar. Everton again tried to build but Sigurdsson was easily dispossessed and Liverpool launched a fearsome attack, Sane heading back across but Gueye there to clear.
Coleman overlapped well down the right but played an early cross straight to Van Dijk. Richarlison got on the end of a cross but headed weakly at Alisson. Zouma gave away a poor header in the centre-circle and again, Liverpool had a corner a split second later. In the second phase, it seemed a simple conversion for Firminho but another brilliant interception saw the Red Swarm thwarted.
Bernard tried to run forward but ran into trouble, and again the red shirts galloped forward, Salah crossing straight to Pickford. Riacharlison, Ueye and Barnard all got forward, pressing the Liverpool area, but easily repelled, the build-up far too slow. Tosun and then Gomes on.
Calvert-Lewin set R down the right, he paused and played a great cross for Bernard who could not convert at the near post. Robertson booked for fouling Richarlison, from the free-kick by Digne, a brilliant ball for Tosun but he hopelessly miskicks his shot.
Everton had done well to raise their game into the last 10 minutes of this very tense affair, the crowd appreciating the changes made by Silva that had increased the intensity but so far with no end-product.
Coleman got forward, crosses for Gomes who shots at Alison from a very narrow-angle and Liverpool break again, Pickford eventually collecting, and finding Bernard on the edge of the Liverpool area but the little Brazilain could not make the shot.
A Liverpool corner looked perfect for Matic, who completely misjudged it. Then a Liverpool free-kick taken quickly and a mad scramble in the Everton area that the Blues somhow survived. Richarlison got forward well and crossed but no-one could take advantage. From the other side, Digne was fouled running in to the box. From a golden set-piece opportunity, Digne launched it over everyone, Zouma going down to an elbow in the face.
Gomes drove forward and played in Tosun who was a yard behind the ball and kicked the defender. Into 3 minutes of added time, and still the tension was gripping, but Everton just could not create the chance that would give them a precious victory. Richarlson chased down a lost ball and crossed but no-one had anticipated his effort and the final whistle went without further ado.
A little better quality from Everton and they should have won this game, but you could roably say the same about Liverpool, wheo were supposedly below par, and dropped another 2 points in their quest for the Premier League title.
Kick off: 4:15pm, Sunday 3 March 2019
Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gueye, Schneiderlin (76' Gomes), Walcott [Y:7'] (60' Richarlison), Sigurdsson, Bernard, Calvert-Lewin (74' Tosun).
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Jagielka, Davies, Kenny.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho [Y:79'], Wijnaldum (63' Milner), Henderson [Y:75']. Mane, Salah, Origi (63' Firmino).
Subs: Mignolet, Keita, Sturrdige, (884' Lallana) Shaqiri.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
As if Everton's miserable record at Anfield wasn't bad enough, they now have a winless record in Merseyside derbies that is also stretching by the year. It's nine years now since the Blues beat Liverpool and at some point you'd say that we are well overdue or that the law of averages would at least play its part.
Well, in a way it has — Everton have been bang average for many of those intervening seasons and bloody awful for some of them but there have also been occasions where we have been more than a match for the reds on paper and simply not delivered. That also has to change.
While Evertonians were pondering their navels during the club's enforced 17-day break last month, there can't have been many who felt we stood much of a chance of winning this weekend's Goodison derby. Just three wins in the League since that horrible 96th-minute calamity in the last derby, defensive frailty and struggling to score goals, if ever an Everton team seemed less equipped to take on Liverpool when they sit at the top of the table it would be now.
But Tuesday's comprehensive win at Cardiff came at just the right time and, more importantly, it was underpinned by an encouraging performance, one that harked back to Everton's promising form prior to their December collapse. There was a visible flourish in confidence as the lead increased on the night and the passing game that was a feature of the early weeks of the campaign and then hugely conspicuous by its absence over the past three months made a welcome return.
It goes without saying that all of those positive signs need to be carried into this weekend's game because, free of any real concerns of their own, Everton have an opportunity to let loose and not only finally beat Liverpool but also put a massive dent in their title challenge.
Even though it came after the two-and-a-half-week hiatus, parts of the team selected by Marco Silva for Tuesday's match appeared to be a nod towards the fact that the Blues would be playing twice in the space of five days. The inclusion of Morgan Schneiderlin, in particular, raised eyebrows but while the Frenchman put in an assured display in central midfield alongside Idrissa Gueye, it would be hard to see the manager leaving André Gomes out of the starting XI this time around.
Phil Jagielka's performance (his early error aside) and Kurt Zouma's eligibility following suspension present a more vexing decision for Silva, however. The Frenchman has been one of Everton's best and most consistent players this season and would, ordinarily, be expected to walk back into the side but it might not be automatic.
Then there's the question over the wide men. Both Richarlison and Theo Walcott are badly off form but even if he has only scored twice since Boxing Day, what the Brazilian has going for him is that he has chipped in with 10 goals this season. Walcott's last goal was on 23rd December and he hasn't provided much in the way of assists either but, for reasons best known to the manager, he has been drafted back into the starting lineup in recent matches. Perhaps it's his pace, attitude and previous goalscoring record with Arsenal but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him start again on Sunday.
Up front, while he has yet to find consistency, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been an intermittent source of goals and he generally looks more capable of leading the line on a regular basis than Cenk Tosun.
For their part, Liverpool, who could find themselves in second place coming into this one if Manchester City successfully negotiate what can be a tricky trip to Bournemouth, will be desperate for the points but they have been below the standards they set in the early part of the season in recent weeks. Their 5-0 destruction of Watford in midweek suggests they might have re-found their mojo but Everton should pose a much stern test despite sitting below the Hornets in the table.
Dejan Lovren is unlikely to make because of injury and Roberto Firmino will undergo a fitness on an ankle problem but Jürgen Klopp has an otherwise clean bill of health in his squad.
If there was one more un-needed wrinkle in the script it's that in their infinite wisdom, the Premier League have seen it fit to appoint one of the most controversial derby referees in recent history to officiate this one. Martin Atkinson, who achieved infamy among Evertonians when he sent Jack Rodwell off just 23 minutes into the October 2011 edition of the Goodison derby.
The decision was later rescinded but only after Liverpool had won the game and it would be some time before Atkinson would take charge of another match at Goodison Park. He would, of course, miss a crucial incident in a League Cup semi-final between Everton and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium when Raheem Sterling ran the ball over the byline but was allowed to cross for Kevin De Bruyne to score and make it 2-1 in that match. He then compounded the error by aiming sarcastic comments at Jagielka when the skipper complained. Here's hoping a man described by the same defender as “a little bit arrogant” doesn't make himself centre of attention again.
Kick off: 4:15pm, Sunday, 3 March, 2019
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Last Time: Everton 0 - 0 Liverpool
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Jagielka, Digne, Gueye, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin