The 219th Merseyside Derby finished all square after Everton fought back from a two goal deficit the level the game. Luis Suarez, Leighton Baines (own goal), Leon Osman and Steven Naismith scored the goals in a game which wasn’t short of controversy. But let’s focus on the football …
The game started with a frantic tempo and that continued throughout the match. Everton imposed their style on Liverpool, who was forced to play mainly on the counter attack. The physical and aerial threats of Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic gave the Liverpool defence all sorts of trouble. Liverpool also struggled with maintaining possession, and they found themselves playing into the hands of Everton and this made the game an end-to-end battle.
In the 14th minute Liverpool opened up the scoring via a deflected Luis Suarez shot.
Liverpool initially had possession down the right side of the pitch, with Luis Suarez dropping into midfield to receive the ball. They then quickly switched the ball, with Steven Gerrard passing to Jose Enrique. Seamus Coleman made a mistake by overcommitting himself, and when Enrique played a one-two with Suso, who was also challenged by Steven Naismith, Liverpool was in behind Everton’s defence.
As the defenders tracked back, wary of the runs from Nuri Şahin and Raheem Sterling, no midfield runner tracked Luis Suarez who popped up to receive the ball as it went through the bodies in the middle of the box. His subsequent shot was going wide, but Leighton Baines was unfortunate to deflect the ball into the net past Tim Howard.
Soon after, Liverpool went 2-0 ahead, with Suarez scoring a goal of his own via a Steven Gerrard free-kick. His glancing header was enough to deceive Howard, but Everton would be disappointed with the defending and how Suarez got so much space in the box.
Almost straight from the kick-off, Everton won a corner and pulled a goal back. Brad Jones punched the corner clear, but only to the edge of the box to Leon Osman who calmly finished past the scrambling goal-keeper.
At 2-1, Liverpool got sucked into Everton’s style of play, turning over possession and looking to counter rather than take the sting out of the game. In the 35th minute, Everton got the reward for their proactive, aggressive approach, with Steven Naismith equalising.
Without debating the validity of the throw-in in the build-up to the goal, it is clear that Liverpool switched off at the back and Everton punished them. Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Jose Enrique played a part in the goal, by not being aware of their runners.
As Kevin Mirallas went to take the throw-in, Gerrard was protesting and allowed Fellaini to jog into an area to receive the ball. Once he received the ball he drew the attention of Wisdom, Allen and Gerrard. A quick pass back to Mirallas, and the fact all three Liverpool players in question followed the ball, allowed Fellaini to enter the box un-tracked.
In the box, Agger watched Jelavic, whilst Enrique picked up Naismith.
Mirallas’s cross was poor, but fell to Fellaini who took a touch and crossed the ball towards the six-yard box. Jose Enrique was caught terribly ball watching and allowed Naismith to move towards the cross unopposed, with Agger unable to make up the ground. Naismith finished and Everton was back level from two goals behind previously.
The remaining ten minutes before half-time brought sustained pressure from Everton, who looked like an aerial threat with the Liverpool defenders unable to match Fellaini in the air. Liverpool was able to go into the sheds level at half-time and, despite leading 2-0, was perhaps lucky not to go behind.
Next Page: Liverpool’s change in formation and conclusion.