Liverpool strike late to snatch a dramatic point from a frantic Merseyside derby with neighbours Everton at Goodison Park.
The Red half of the City suffered a blow before kick-off with the news joint top scorer Daniel Sturridge was fit enough only for the bench.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers made a couple of changes from the side that beat Fulham 4-0 last time out with surprise starts for Jon Flanagan and Joe Allen.
The visitors got off to the perfect start when Philippe Coutinho was left unmarked at the back post to control and convert Steven Gerrard‘s corner following a Luis Suarez flick on.
It was a short-lived lead however as Everton capitalised on equally poor marking three minutes later to equalise through Kevin Mirallas.
The Belgium international was on hand to poke home after Ross Barkley had somehow managed to beat Martin Skrtel and Jordan Henderson to a Leighton Baines free kick.
Two goals in the opening eight minutes had set the tone for an open contest and the two sides continued to trade blows throughout the encounter.
Simon Mignolet needed to be quick off his line to thwart Romelu Lukaku after Gerrard had been robbed of possession by Steven Pienaar.
But it was the Reds who struck next, restoring their lead in the 19th minute via another set piece.
This time the goal came direct as Suarez, fouled by Gareth Barry to earn a free kick, stepped up and bent a superb effort around the wall and into the bottom right-hand corner of Tim Howard’s net.
The hosts were probably unfortunate to be behind and continued to look dangerous as the first half wore on.
Barkley was at the heart of much of their good work and the England international forced Mignolet into one particularly impressive save at the base of his left-hand post with a dipping strike from distance.
Unsurprisingly the 221st Merseyside derby, like most before it, had been a physical affair from the off but Everton’s goal scorer Mirallas took things too far with a high challenge on Suarez.
The puncture marks left behind on the side of the Uruguayan’s knee evidence that the yellow card which followed was the very least he deserved.
Spanish youngster Gerard Deulofeu, on for the injured Baines shortly after the interval, was the next to be denied by an inspired Mignolet.
Poor organisation by Liverpool at an attacking throw-in allowed Everton to counter-attack but the on-loan Barcelona midfielder wasted a one-on-one situation by hitting his attempt straight at Mignolet.
Roberto Martinez’s side should have been made to pay on the hour mark when a dribble by Suarez broke kindly to Allen just yards out.
With only Howard to beat and all the time in the world, it was a shock not to see the net bulge as the Welshman somehow side-footed the ball wide.
It felt like a big moment at the time and so it was to prove.
Lukaku, already denied twice more by Mignolet in the preceding quarter of an hour, finally got the better of his international team mate in the 72nd minute.
The visiting goalkeeper initially palmed away the powerful forward’s free-kick but he couldn’t keep out a follow up effort after Mirallas had returned the ball into the danger area.
Suarez and Lukaku then wasted further great openings before a dramatic Toffees turnaround was seemingly completed by Lukaku.
The on-loan Chelsea man rose above Flanagan and Glen Johnson to power home a corner with the game now inside the final 10 minutes.
Somehow the drama still wasn’t over though as Sturridge, on before Liverpool had fallen behind to try and win the game, salvaged a point with 90 seconds to go courtesy of a glancing header.
Gerrard was again the creator with an excellent free kick delivery after Sylvain Distin had fouled Victor Moses.
Even in stoppage time both teams had more chances; Howard keeping out a Suarez volley and Mignolet blocking an angled Deulofeu effort.
The crowd greeted the final whistle with a standing ovation and rightly so after a thrilling 90 minutes.
A crazy game in which tactics and philosophies largely went out of the window and a frantic, high-tempo encounter ebbed and flowed from start to finish. Despite leading twice, I’m personally relieved to have come away with a point after Everton took control for large periods of the second half. On a positive note, the late equaliser showed great character from the players at a time when the game had seemingly gone away from us. Defensively it was nothing short of inept at times, especially once Allen and Lucas had been removed from play. We could over analyse some of Rodgers’ decisions or focus on the sitter Allen missed or the fact Mirallas shouldn’t have been on the pitch but some times the entertainment should just be lauded. Credit must go to both sides for going at it hammer and tongs for 90 minutes. Derbies are always unique encounters so the nature of this contest should be quickly overlooked and attention turned to picking up three points at Hull City next weekend.
Simon Mignolet – Not often will a goalkeeper concede three times but still win a man of the match vote. Without the summer recruit, who made three or four fantastic saves, Liverpool could easily have conceded seven or eight times and they would almost certainly have lost the match.
Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan, Lucas (Sturridge 79′), Allen (Moses 68′), Henderson, Gerrard, Coutinho, Suarez.
Unused subs: Jones, Sakho, Toure, Alberto, Sterling.
Click here to read the manager’s thoughts
Click here to see comprehensive match stats
Follow me on Twitter @superbag
|Not a Vital Liverpool member? It’s 100% free to join & only takes a few moments to sign up. Click here to become a member or alternatively simply sign in using Social Media!|