Liverpool and Everton play out a largely uneventful 0-0 draw in the 224th Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park…
Kop boss Brendan Rodgers named a surprise starting eleven featuring 19-year-old winger Jordan Ibe.
The youngster, making just his second Premier League start for the Reds, was joined by Lucas Leiva and Jordan Henderson as one of three changes from the midweek FA Cup win over Bolton Wanderers.
An even opening period saw both sides threaten at regular intervals but without working the opposing goalkeeper.
The first effort on target came from a dipping Steven Gerrard free-kick in the 10th minute which Joel Robles did well to tip over the bar.
For the most part, the hosts seemed content to sit deep and allow Liverpool to dominate possession whilst trying to use the pace of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas on the break.
Rodgers was forced into a 15th minute reshuffle when Lucas Leiva succumbed to an injury, Joe Allen the replacement.
Derby debutant Ibe had a brief sight of goal after a Raheem Sterling shot deflected into his path but Robles was alert and narrowed the angle well.
Everton began to grow into the contest as the half wore on and a better first touch by Steven Naismith could have easily led to an opener.
In the 27th minute, just seconds after a poor pass almost put his own side in danger, Ibe showed just why he had been recalled from a loan spell at Derby County with a weaving run and thumping drive which crashed against the post.
Despite the eye-catching moment, the Toffees were beginning to threaten more and more themselves although without finding the final pass needed to make the most of some good situations.
At the other end, Coutinho became the latest to work Robles with a deflected shot from the edge of the area.
The closing stages of the half were actually fairly uneventful by derby standards, although the pace and physicality remained unabated.
Mirallas went close with a curling free-kick at the start of the second half but again goalmouth action initially remained at a premium, although Coutinho should have done a lot better when trying to find a team mate after winning possession in an advanced area.
The visitors suddenly picked up the pace and Sterling forced Robles into action twice in quick succession before an acrobatic, goal-bound effort from Gerrard was deflected over.
It didn’t take long for Rodgers to introduce Daniel Sturridge; the striker replacing Coutinho in the 56th minute.
Martinez soon followed suit by bringing on Deadline Day loan signing Aaron Lennon for Mirallas.
Neither player had much of an impact initially though as the game meandered through to the 70 minute mark without further action of note.
Ibe produced a good run and cross shortly afterwards but Alberto Moreno miss-kicked his shot and Sturridge’s follow-up was easily blocked.
Lukaku had a sniff of goal from a route one Robles clearance but Emre Can read the situation well and removed the danger.
As the game approached the final 10 minutes a melee briefly broke out after Muhamed Besic and Ibe tussled.
The incident appeared to wake the Toffees up and they were close to capitalising on a couple of defensive lapses from Mamadou Sakho soon afterwards.
Rodgers rolled the dice late on by introducing Rickie Lambert and the experienced frontman should have done better with a weak effort on the turn five minutes from time.
Everton almost took the lead a minute later when excellent work by another substitute, Ross Barkley, setup Seamus Coleman but the previously untested Simon Mignolet produced an excellent diving stop to keep out the full-back’s powerful drive.
Gerrard went close to a dramatic late winner on his final derby appearance but both teams will probably be content with a point.
A frustrating game in many ways but neither side will be too unhappy with a point. Liverpool probably edged the contest on the balance of play, certainly on the number of efforts at goal, but failed to create any real golden chances that could have proved decisive. Both teams defended well and for the most part the game was played in a good spirit. Liverpool remain four points behind the Champions League places but this outcome certainly won’t make or break their aspirations for the remainder of the season.
Jordan Ibe – The youngster took to the derby like a duck to water and showed no fear. Went the closest to breaking the stalemate with a stunning attempt and produced some other great runs and crosses. Also worked hard defensively in an unusual wing-back role too.
Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Ibe, Moreno, Lucas (Allen 16′), Henderson, Gerrard (c), Coutinho (Sturridge 56′), Sterling (Lambert 82′).
Unused subs: Ward, Johnson, Lovren, Markovic.
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