Everton once again frustrated as win-less run against Liverpool stretches to 10 games
Lukaku equalises moments before half-time in impressive solo performance
Makeshift back four contain Liverpool but lack of cutting edge costs Blues all 3 points
Romelu Lukaku put in a man of the match performance in the Merseyside derby but his goal was not enough to give Everton city bragging rights.
Everton went into the 225th meeting between these two clubs as firm favourites, unbeaten in their previous four games and on the back of a resounding comeback against West Brom.
But it was Liverpool who struck first through Danny Ings; a mix of miscommunication and static defending allowing the former Burnley striker to nod home from close range.
Their lead lasted all but four minutes though as the goal sparked the hosts in to life. Emre Can’s attempted clearance fell to Lukaku via Martin Skrtel and the Belgian smashed home moments before half-time.
Everton grew into the game in the second half with Lukaku going closest for the home side with a powerful right footed shot. The 22-year-old demonstrated a robust side to his hold up play not often seen at Goodison Park, but a lack of creativity saw the first derby of the season end in stalemate.
Toffees’ sticky derby record goes on
It’s now been a long 10 games since Everton last tasted victory in a Merseyside derby. Not only have Evertonians had to submit workplace bragging rights to their smug neighbours for the last five years, the Toffees have won just twice in the last decade: a run of 25 games.
A sobering selection of stats that should alarm even the most optimistic Evertonian. But Blues were confident that the unwelcome records would come to a sensational end in this first meeting of the season.
Everton were in fine form heading into the fixture, only conceding their first two away goals of the campaign on Monday night at West Brom. At the other end, Everton’s attacking players have been enjoying the best football we’ve seen at Goodison Park in well over a year.
Lukaku re-joined the goal trail with two against West Brom, while Ross Barkley, Arouna Kone and Gerard Deulofeu have played their part creating and/or scoring goals.
But all-too predictably, Everton couldn’t quite find enough to put their under-fire neighbours to the sword. The wide-play which has so far characterised Everton’s success so far this season was missing (although Lukaku’s goal did come from a Deulofeu cross, one of few on a miserable afternoon for the Spaniard). And while Barkley showed glimpses of his talents with tidy passing, the pace and incisiveness was missing to ensure the end of another hoodoo.
Lukaku starting to look every bit a £28m player
You’ll often hear noises of ambivalence coming from the Gwladys Street when it comes to Lukaku. Some fans are more than happy with a potent goal-scoring record that compares with the likes of Lionel Messi for a 22-year-old. Others feel the Belgian must add to his all-round game to be considered a great Everton centre forward.
But here you saw it all. Strength, power, pace, aggression, composure; all were on display. And adding to his instinctive first half equaliser, the Belgian showed that he can do a lot more for the team.
He dominated the aerial battles with Skrtel and Sakho, showed strength to hold off (and often turn and escape) several markers, he had the pace and the skill to beat Liverpool’s defence time and again and his overall teamwork was sensational.
Not for the first time this week Everton fell behind, and for the second time in 5 days, Lukaku spearheaded the comebacks: at West Brom and again against Liverpool. A bruising, skilful and clinical striker who can inspire his team single-handedly; such a player has every chance of going down in Everton centre-forward folklore.
3 derby debutants shine in Everton defence
Tyias Browing, Brendan Galloway and Romiro Funes Mori made up three-quarters of Everton’s defence and not one of them had kicked a ball (or a kopite) in a Merseyside derby.
With key men missing in John Stones, Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, Liverpool would have fancied their chances against an inexperienced and somewhat cobbled-together back four.
But the trio deserve huge credit for their individual and team performances. Funes Mori survived a few dribbles -when the ball seemed to get caught under his feet- to grow into and impress in the game. Browning was assured once again out of position at right-back while Galloway was tremendous from start to finish.
The youngster continues to improve with every game, not just in defence where his composure in one-on-one situations belies his 19 years but in attack too where he offers himself as an outlet time and again. While Everton laboured at times in the final third, the more the game went on the more confident the defence became, led by the imperious Phil Jagielka.