A commanding Merseyside derby performance ends in frustration for the the Red half of the city at a wintery Anfield…
Liverpool were somehow held to a 1-1 draw by Everton on Sunday afternoon despite dominating another one-sided encounter between the two local rivals.
Kop boss Jürgen Klopp continued his recent squad rotation policy by naming a surprise starting X1 containing Dominic Solanke and minus Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino.
The opening stages were all one-way traffic as the in-form hosts took the game to their neighbours and they might have taken an early lead had Sadio Mané not slipped at an inopportune moment.
A negative Everton didn’t do themselves any favours though with a game plan heavily reliant on defending deep, time wasting and hopeful punts upfield.
It seemed only a matter of time before the deadlock would be broken with Mané, Mohamed Salah and both full-backs finding plenty of space and running at the visitors at will.
For all their dominance though, Toffees keeper Jordan Pickford had remained relatively untested until he was suddenly picking the ball out of his net in the 43rd minute when Salah arrowed a beautiful curling effort past him and into the top corner.
It was a totally deserved lead and it should have been doubled in first half injury time but Mané selfishly dragged wide from close range as three team mates waited in vain for a tap-in.
Sam Allardyce made a double change at the interval but neither that nor a formation alteration did much to affect the flow of the game as Salah missed a presentable headed opportunity within moments of the restart.
A host of last ditch blocks and tackles kept the Blues in the contest as Klopp’s side continued to push for a second, while Joe Gomez nodded fractionally over from a corner shortly after the hour mark.
The outcome of the match was suddenly altered when a rare foray forward from Everton was contentiously rewarded with a penalty when Dejan Lovren tangled with Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
There was little in the way of contact and Calvert-Lewin certainly went down dramatically but it was both unnecessary and clumsy from the Croatian.
Wayne Rooney duly dispatched the 77th minute spot-kick past Simon Mignolet and for a brief spell the reinvigorated visitors suddenly sensed an even more successful smash-and-grab raid might be on the cards.
It was short-lived though as the men in red, with Firmino, Coutinho and Danny Ings now all on, regained control and Everton went back into ultra defensive mode.
For all their possession and territory though only a Coutinho free-kick really tested Pickford as the closing 10 minutes frustratingly passed without any clear-cut chances being created.
Speaking after the game at his post-match press conference, an angry Klopp, who had earlier argued with a television reporter on live TV, reiterated his personal disbelief at the penalty award.
“I don’t think it was a penalty,” remarked the animated German. “If you all think it is a penalty, then all the other challenges in midfield between Williams and Dom Solanke should have been a free-kick. They weren’t free-kicks but this was a penalty. That’s how it is. We have to take that.
“In the last moment, for me, Calvert-Lewin makes the step in the way of Dejan Lovren but he doesn’t push him or anything, it’s just body contact. That’s how it was in midfield 60 or 70 times, no free-kick there.
“Today, it’s a penalty which was not a penalty. It was so close before the end of the game, so that’s how it feels. You asked me how I feel – I told you. That will not change anything…
“I thought we did everything to win the game. If somebody would have thought after our last game that we would try to play a little bit of football, then I think everybody saw that the attitude of the boys was outstanding, outstanding tonight; absolutely spot-on, ready for every challenge, ready for everything and playing football against a deep, deeper defending team.
“We forced them into their own box, had our moments. It’s difficult to score a lot, especially when the opponent doesn’t change their style or whatever after they are 1-0 down. That doesn’t make it easier. But we controlled the game apart from one situation – and this situation decided the game at the end. That’s what we have to accept.”
The result equals Liverpool’s longest-ever unbeaten run against Everton in all competitions – 15 games – set between March 1972 and April 1978, but that fact will do nothing to ease their sense of unhappiness and injustice.
A feeling that hasn’t been helped by the fact fellow top four contenders Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United all dropped points over the course of the weekend and therefore the Reds had failed to capitalise.
There is little time for Klopp’s men to feel sorry for themselves though as they are back in action at Anfield on Wednesday night when they host struggling West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League (8.00pm GMT).
So that’s what both us and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below…
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