Everton came from behind to snatch a point at Anfield thanks to Wayne Rooney’s first ever goal in a Merseyside derby.
The Toffees frustrated Liverpool in the 229th encounter between the sides, limiting the hosts to just three shots on target despite Jurgen Klopp’s men enjoying the lion’s share of possession.
Mohamed Salah opened the scoring with a fine finish just before half-time but Rooney’s ninth goal of the season -struck from 12 yards after Dejan Lovren pushed Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the area- ensured Everton went back across Stanley Park with a point.
Sam’s plan: always ugly, sometimes effective
It was never going to pretty, but the fact Everton came away from Anfield with a point, when media and pundits the world over had geared themselves up for a ‘Fab Four’ wank-athon is extremely satisfying. Klopp’s side had scored 40 goals in their previous 11 games – it was obvious what Allardyce had to do.
That Liverpool laboured to create anything meaningful in the first half, was partly down to Everton’s shape, organisation and hard work. A deep back four, protected by three holding midfielders and two very narrow ‘wide men’ left Calvert-Lewin up top on his own. Salah’s goal was a huge disappointment from an Everton point of view (Cuco Martina showing the strength of a wet sheet of toilet roll before Idrissa Gueye inexplicably showed the Egyptian inside), yet Everton held firm and for the most part made it extremely difficult for Liverpool to find space.
When opportunities arrived, Liverpool were wasteful. Everton made little attempt to make it out of their own half while struggling to put consecutive passes together, but for a team who have shipped 29 league goals in 16 games, Allardyce’s orders were to restrict Liverpool chances by any means necessary.
Klopp’s decision not to start Coutinho or Firmino was indeed a strange decision but one that played into Everton’s hands. Jordan Henderson ended the game as the player with the most passes (81) a stat which will make most Evertonians want to vomit. And while it does sound embarrassing, ask yourself which Liverpool player you’d rather have more of the ball? Henderson or Coutinho? Or how about Firminho, Salah or Mane? As long as Henderson had the ball, Everton had nothing to worry about.
Gana walked the disciplinary tightrope like a trazepe artist
A man well acquainted with the referee’s book, Gana picked up his 4th yellow card of the season in the first half. It was moments before Salah’s goal which may explain the bizarre moment of hesitation in which the Senegalese positioned himself so as to show Salah towards goal, as opposed to away from it.
Whatever the reason, Evertonians spent the rest of the game expecting Gana’s imminent dismissal for a second yellow. Rather than shy away from what he does best, Gana made sure to win his tackles with as much accuracy as anyone else on the pitch, tussling opponents off the ball and coming away cleanly with the ball on many occasion.
In a fixture in which many blues have found it easy to go missing (especially those walking the yellow card tight rope), Gana showed bravery in standing up and continuing to take the fight to Liverpool.
Everton’s second penalty at Anfield in 80 years
No one was more surprised to see referee Craig Pawson point to the spot than the 2000 Evertonians just metres from the incident. Apart from it being a bit of a soft penalty (although even soft penalties are still penalties), how often do you see Everton awarded a penalty at Anfield? After all this was only Everton’s second spot-kick at their former home since 1937. Another Wayne buried the last penalty awarded, Mr Clarke netting in the same end as Rooney and also earning his side a point.
And it was also pleasing to finally see Rooney on the scoresheet in a Merseyside derby. Sunday’s game was his fifth derby appearance, 13 years and 313 days after his last one in 2004, setting a new club record.
Wayne Rooney new #efc record for gaps between derby appearances – 13 y 313 days – previous record Joe Donnachie 11 y 254 days (1908-1919)
— Gavin Buckland (@GavinBuckland1) December 10, 2017
DCL’s thankless task
Calvert-Lewin seems to be one of those players some fans just can’t make their mind up about. Lauded for his effort and commitment one moment, lambasted for a poor first touch the next.
But the 20-year old was excellent against Liverpool, performing a largely thankless task and playing a huge role in helping The Blues to a point. It’s not easy playing away from home against two very physical centre-halves. Don’t forget, he was playing with nine other outfield players who had virtually no intention of passing the halfway line until Aaron Lennon’s introduction at half-time.
Okay I get it, you’re still upset about Sammy Lee being in the Everton dugout, but let’s not take it out on our young striker. He did a great job.
Martina at left-back highlights failures of summer recruitment
While Calvert-Lewin will receive plaudits from most blues this evening, one man with no love lost among Evertonians will be Cuco Martina.
I’ve given the full-back due credit when it’s been earned. He was unfairly written off before he kicked a ball for the club and has had some good games in a blue shirt: but today wasn’t one of them.
Whether it was the pressure of the occasion, the thought of being up against the Premier League’s top score in Salah or being forced to kick the ball mostly with his unfavoured left foot (what’s the opposite of a cultured left foot?) I’m not too sure. Salah shrugged him off far too easily for his goal, while his second half only seemed to get worse: running up for offside when the rest of his defence stayed put; leaving men unmarked at corners; and struggling to make even the simplest of 5 yard passes.
I don’t like to criticise for the sake of it, I only do so because it raises questions of the board and our summer recruitment. With no one to back up the ageing Leighton Baines, why didn’t we go out and buy cover at left back? Ronald Koeman knew Martina from his Southampton days, so I’m assuming he’d seen him play. He must have realised he really struggles on the left side and therefore wouldn’t be adequate cover for Baines. And yet, he’s been the one to deputise when Baines has been missing.
Another indictment of a failed transfer window that the board must try and address in January.