Having both made poor starts to the season, Liverpool and Everton met in the first Merseyside derby of the season with even more desire to win than normal. Liverpool played well, but in the end a late goal from Jagielka ensured that neither side got their wish; the match ended as a draw.
As soon as the match kicked off it became apparent that Liverpool were more up for this fixture than they had been for any other so far this season. The pressing was good, the intensity of the play was excellent, and overall we looked very dangerous. The attacking play was clearly too strong for Barry; he mis-timed a tackle in the very first minute of the game and was subsequently booked. Everton showed some attacking intent of their own- Lukaku’s bursting run into the box was halted by Moreno pulling him back, and the Blues had a big shout for a penalty. However, the referee opted not to give it, and replays showed that the foul started just outside the box anyway.
Minutes later, Martin Atkinson had another big call to make. Barry, who had already been booked, blatantly raised his arms into an unnatural position in order to block Raheem Sterling’s vicious drive. Had this been deemed a foul- as, clearly, it should have been- then Barry would surely have been off the pitch for a second yellow. Moments after that, Barry was in trouble again. He slid in to rob Balotelli of possession, but caught a fair portion of the man before getting anywhere near the ball. This time Atkinson did give a free kick, but again failed to produce the second yellow card. Had he done so, the game may well have gone very differently.
As it was, Liverpool were forced to try and win the match against Everton’s full compliment of players. The signs were much more encouraging than in previous games; with the exception of Markovic, who is still adapting to the English game, everyone looked dangerous going forward. Lallana was particularly impressive- he played some nice passes and showed good close control at times. Despite this, the teams went in for half time at 0-0. Nobody had predicted this before the game, but two of the worst defences in the league so far had performed admirably. In the end, it took a piece of magic from under-fire skipper Steven Gerrard to break the deadlock. Balotelli won a free kick in a promising position, and, though the Italian looked interested in taking it, Gerrard stepped up. He hit it gloriously, curling round the wall and in, just close enough to the corner that Howard’s touch on the ball was not telling enough to keep it out.
It looked for a while like the impossible was going to happen- Liverpool were going to keep a clean sheet. Admittedly Everton had offered barely anything going forward, but when they had launched an attack the defence had remained solid. It wasn’t until stoppage time at the end of the game that they finally conceded. Mignolet should have come to claim a cross but didn’t, then Lovren’s clearing header fell to Jagielka, around 25 yards from goal. It wasn’t awful defending, but we probably should have done better with it. What happened next, however, everyone was powerless to prevent. Jagielka, hardly renowned for the goals he scores from centre-back, rocketed the ball with unerring precision into the top corner of the net, just grazing the underside of the bar on the way in.
Obviously it was frustrating not to take all three points from a game where we were on top throughout, but things like a wonder goal from a defender simply cannot be accounted for. Of course it would be great to be getting more points on the board, but at least now we’re looking recognisable as the team who did so well last year. Hopefully this performance can be a springboard for us; our next three games are all winnable, so hopefully the confidence from the way we played yesterday combined with the return of Daniel Sturridge will be enough to enable us to take maximum points.