The 220th edition of English football’s oldest local rivalry was played out at Anfield today as Liverpool took on Everton. It was to be Jamie Carragher’s last derby game before the Liverpool legend retired from football, but the match was unable to provide the result both sets of supporters would have wanted as it ended in a boring 0-0 draw.
The game got off to a fairly lively start in which Everton’s defence was the busier of the two. There were not many clear chances to get excited about however, with Daniel Sturridge’s pass going across the face of goal before being cleared by Sylvain Distin being the only one worth any merit.
Sturridge had another chance in the 13th minute when he picked up the ball on the side of the box. Rather than taking the better choice and playing the ball through to Stewart Downing, he took a shot at goal and it sailed over the bar. Everton started to grab a better foothold on the game during this period and the best chance of the half came a few minutes later.
Everton won a free kick near the side-line from where Leighton Baines hit the ball in to the far post where Marouane Fellaini was waiting, and he only just missed the goal when his shot went narrowly wide of Pepe Reina’s right hand post. The Belgian grew noticeably frustrated and was lucky to escape a caution from the referee when he elbowed Daniel Agger in the face at an Everton corner.
The game turned into a scrappy affair, with both teams fighting to make an impression on the game, but in the 30th minute, Downing was able to set up a shot in the box for Steven Gerrard via Jordan Henderson. But with the captain lining up to take his shot, Phil Jagielka dived in just in time to block what would have been a sure goal.
The visitors kept a lot of the ball, but failed to make any headway when moving forward with Victor Anichebe being largely ineffective up front.
There was another great chance for Liverpool five minutes before half time when a Gerrard free kick led to shots on goal in the box for both Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, but once again Jagielka was able to block their efforts with the help of Seamus Coleman.
As the first half came to a close, it was hard to pick who was the better team. With Everton needing a win to guarantee finishing above Liverpool, and with the Reds needing a win to try and close in on their local rivals, the second half would surely have provided a goal.
Liverpool opened the second half in the ascendancy, and a great chance was presented to them in the 47th minute when Coutinho played a beautiful pass through to Sturridge to leave him one on one with Tim Howard, but the American did a great job of leading the striker out to the byline and stopping the shot on goal.
The home side kept coming, but met a similar fate as with their previous chances when a Gerrard cross beat the Everton defence, but went straight into the waiting hands of Howard.
Liverpool’s domination didn’t last long and after 10 minutes the game had its first taste of controversy when the Toffees were wrongly denied a goal. From an Everton corner, Distin rose above Carragher to head the ball into the net, but the goal was disallowed as Anichebe was judged to have fouled Reina when in fact he had barely made contact with the keeper. Liverpool fans who remember the winning goal Luis Suarez scored at Goodison Park earlier in the season before it was wrongly disallowed for offside will likely feel justice has been served.
The game returned to the scrappy nature of the first half but there were chances for both sides over the next 20 minutes. Coutinho picked up the ball in the box from a Glen Johnson cross but could only hit the ball straight at Howard. Anichebe held off the Liverpool defence to set up Fellaini, but the Everton star shot the ball over the bar. Gerrard was able to take the ball round Howard only to have his shot cleared for a corner by Distin.
As the game fizzled out to an uneventful end, it was only right that praise be heaped on both defences, with particular attention being paid to Jagielka and Distin in the middle of Everton’s back four. However, the man of the match award rightly went to Gerrard who had set up most of Liverpool’s chances and did some great defensive work in the middle of the park.
Unfortunately for Everton fans, the draw means their team have now went 14 years without a win at Anfield, but will be buoyed by the sure chance that they will now finish above their local rivals.
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