There are a number of stand-out fixtures during a season which fans look out for, including the big head-to-heads and in this case, a huge local derby. The intense build-up before the game only increases the expectations and sometimes they don’t quite live up to its billing, but I can safely say this Merseyside derby will be remembered as one the games of the season.
Fans from both sets of teams, including myself, had to catch their breath after the final whistle, especially at end of a pulsating and highly eventful contest. With a 3-3 result, it’s incredible to think that even after Sturridge’s 89th minute leveller, both sides had chances to win it. Liverpool will be relieved to have snatched a point at the death even though they were leading for the majority of the game. Everton will be somewhat disappointed not to hold on for the win after taking the lead so late on but they could’ve put the game to bed before that, with a whole host of chances, only to be thwarted by the excellent Simon Mignolet, who, although he conceded 3 goals (none of which could be blamed on the goalkeeper), was on top form and bailed Liverpool out of what was a poor defensive display by their standards.
This was Mignolet’s first Merseyside derby since making his move from Sunderland in the summer but he did not show any signs of nervousness on such an important occasion. In fact, this was probably viewed as his best performance so far in a Liverpool shirt. There was a significant Belgian influence in the game with Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku and Mignolet all performing outstandingly. However, it was the battle between Lukaku and Mignolet which was the most interesting. Lukaku has been a thorn in Liverpool’s side recently having scored in both matches when playing on loan for West Brom last season. Both players will know each quite well from international duty and although Lukaku scored two goals past Mignolet (the first of which Mignolet will feel he could’ve done better with), the Liverpool shot-stopper will feel that it was a battle he won, considering that they didn’t lose the game, which surely would’ve been the case had Mignolet not been on top form.
Pepe Reina has been Liverpool’s first choice goalkeeper for a number of years, before Mignolet took over the role, and was a successful one at that. A regular at keeping clean sheets, Reina’s amazing ability to distribute the ball to the point where he could actually contribute to a goal on occasions, as well as his excellent reflexes and enthusiasm, was how he endeared himself to the fans. However, his performances had deteriorated somewhat over the last few seasons and the manager felt the need for a change, but, whoever came in had big boots to fill after his departure. Introducing Simon Mignolet, who, when at Sunderland, showed that he was one of the best young goalkeepers in the Premier League with the potential to be a world class talent in the making. Having seen David De Gea struggle in his first season at Man United, Liverpool fans had hoped that Mignolet’s fortunes would be different and he has done his best not to disappoint so far.
His statistics from the match against Everton show that, although he conceded three goals, he made 9 saves within the match which averaged out as a save every 10 minutes. Now what the stats don’t show was the type of chances that he saved. Goal-bound shots from Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu, as well as one-on-ones with Deulofeu and especially Lukaku, had Everton fans scratching their heads as to how they hadn’t finished the game off. Mignolet also made one ground tackle against Lukaku, who had set his sights on taking a touch and rounding the keeper but Mignolet did superbly well to win the ball. It’s not often that a team votes their own goalkeeper as man-of-the-match even after letting in three goals which shows the magnitude of his performance.
This season already he has made 48 saves at an average of one every 22.5 minutes. This already is more than half the saves made by Pepe Reina last season (73). He has conceded an average of 1.08 goals per game but this could be significantly more if not for some excellent performances this season, mainly against Aston Villa and Everton this weekend, which has helped Liverpool pick up vital points. Although it is still early days, Mignolet will hope to keep a few more clean sheets than he has so far but ultimately that is down to the team and not only the goalkeeper.
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Daniel Sturridge comments on Mignolet after the Everton game.” quotestyle=”style02″]At the start of the season everyone saw what he was all about with that penalty save against Stoke City. He set himself a standard. It’s difficult as a keeper to be unbelievable in every game. But Simon is an unbelievable guy on and off the field and we’re so happy to have him here. [/sws_blockquote_endquote]
The graphic above shows the shot distribution from Everton, who had a total of 12 shots on target. You can see how alert Mignolet had to be with shots coming in from all angles, whether it was from the right or left as well as close and long range efforts. Brendan Rodgers, for one, will be thankful for Mignolet’s performance, as it saved Liverpool from what was a poor defensive display – with all three goals conceded from set pieces – and also the midfield were being opened up at every opportunity, with through-balls played into Lukaku and co with relative ease.
All in all, Liverpool will be very pleased with their summer acquisition so far and will hope that performances like the one on the weekend are regular, especially if they are to push for a place in the Champions league this season. Mignolet himself will be delighted with the start he has made and will no doubt continue to do his best. However, I’m sure that he will want a little more help from his midfielders and defenders so that he doesn’t have to make as many saves on a regular basis.
I will leave you with a compilation of Mignolet’s saves from the match against Everton so enjoy.