Post-match Reaction: After demolition derby, what is there to look forward to?

Well that was embarrassing.

Not for the first time have Evertonians headed into a Merseyside derby at Anfield with hope that their side could come away with 3 points for the first time since 1999.

And not for last time- this Evertonian suspects- will we trudge depressingly back across Stanley Park with nothing to show but disappointment.

Add to that disappointment the biggest drubbing at the hands of our city rivals in nearly 34 years, an increased injury list and the fact we managed to make Aly Cissokho look like, well, a footballer, and there doesn’t appear to be too much to shout about for the blue half of Merseyside.

Roberto Martinez was coy in his pre-match press conferences, choosing to keep his injury cards close to his chest and surprising everyone when naming Ross Barkley, Steven Pienaar and Antolin Alcaraz in the starting XI.

Evertonians on social media for the past couple of weeks have been desperate not only for Barkley to return for the Anfield trip but for Everton to go forth and attack, as they did with much success at Old Trafford and the Emirates this season.

Barkley’s left-foot shot flew inches over Simon Mignolet’s cross-bar in the second minute and Everton’s early possession looked to a be sign that we were here to do what we did to Manchester United on their own patch.

Apart from a sweetly struck strike from Kevin Mirallas and a Gareth Barry shot that ended up going out for a throw in, it was about as close as Everton came to scoring.

While Everton were defensively poor from set-pieces and shockingly exposed on the counter-attack, Liverpool were merciless in their finishing. At 1-0 the game was still there to be won, but two goals in three minutes were enough to effectively kill the game as a contest 10 minutes before half-time.

After 45 minutes it was clear to every Evertonian who could still bear to watch that Pienaar was severely lacking in match fitness and his touch and passing were affected as a result. On came Leon Osman for the second half and once again, the signs of attacking intent were clear as day. What was not so clear was where the source of a goal would come from, with Steven Naismith replacing the injured Romelu Lukaku.

After a great performance on Saturday as centre forward against Stevenage, Naismith looked completely out of his depth at Anfield. And after a year and half at the club, it seems Naismith simply isn’t cut out for Premier League football. I like the player’s work rate, I like his honesty and I also quite like how well he can jump for such a short guy (company he shares with a certain Australian who could find the net against Liverpool). But he certainly is not going to be Everton’s main centre forward.

Not that last night’s blame can be laid at the Scotsman’s door. There were a number of players who made poor individual decisions which led to goals, and plenty of men who simply did not turn up.

To say the performance was down to injuries and lack of fitness is frankly a tonic I’m not willing to swallow. There was plenty of energy and endeavour, even in the second half. The problem was that we made several errors in the first half which saw us go 3-0 down. That cushion allowed Liverpool to play like the away side, happy to get men behind the ball, soak up the pressure and counter attack.

And it worked a treat. Despite enjoying 60% of possession, Everton created virtually nothing in the way of clear-cut chances in the second half. Once confronted with the crowd of red shirts on the edge of their own penalty area, Everton hit a wall. There was no route forward, and any fluency was disrupted and forced into a sideways or backwards pass.

But while we try and tip-toe around the kopites in work who crawl out from beneath their desks the day after the night before, trying not to step on them, there is still much to look forward to as an Evertonian.

There are still 15 Premier League games to play and despite dropping points in the race for fourth, Everton are contenders. We may have lost a striker in the transfer window, and with Lukaku out for up to a month this is an area we’re short in, but we’ve recruited well in Aiden McGeady and Lacina Traore. Traore arrives with plenty of promise, while McGeady’s arrival on the wing will allow Mirallas to take on a more central attacking role.

Players will begin to return from injury (the likes of Seamus Coleman and Gerard Deulofeu) while those who featured yesterday will be regaining full-fitness.

There’s also the matter of the FA Cup which is starting to become a visible glint on the horizon having drawn Swansea at home and seeing the three favourites and Liverpool drawn against each other.

But perhaps more important to remember is Martinez’s long-term vision for Everton. He stated, in no uncertain terms, in his first press conference as manager that he would get Everton into the Champions League.

When you consider how quickly the players have taken to the manager’s new style and how well the club has performed in the first half of the season, it’s only natural to feel like everything’s going wrong when you witness Tuesday’s demolition derby.

Everton have come a long way in the last 6 months and the plan is to go much further in the months and years ahead. While losing at Anfield is always painful, there is nothing more important than the next game and taking it one step at a time is sure to get us to where we want to be.

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