I’m still in shock. Yesterday (Saturday 23rd November),
Liverpool and Everton played out
one of the best, most dramatic Merseyside derbies to date. Many predicted it
would be a good game, with both sides having good seasons, but nobody could
have foreseen that it would turn into a six goal thriller, filled with all the
ingredients to make a great game of football- controversy, exceptional play,
drama and action right to the final whistle.
In their usual fashion,
started quickly. They won a corner inside 4 minutes, and subsequently scored
from it- Coutinho smashing the ball emphatically into the net after Suarez had
his shot blocked. Everton would have been disappointed to concede in such a
manner- the marking was questionable, and James McCarthy, who was meant to be
on the line to clear the ball, was standing in the goal! Consequently, his
attempted clearance was ineffective, and Liverpool
took the lead. However, it didn’t last long. 8 minutes into the game Leighton
Baines delivered a very nice free kick, which, after a bit of a scramble, was
turned home skilfully by Kevin Mirallas.
A few minutes later, Mirallas was involved again, but not in the right way. He tried to rob the ball from Suarez by sliding in, but his tackle was late and high, and his studs were up. It clearly should have been a red card (I may be biased, but I’m sure anyone would agree it was a horrendous challenge), but referee Phil Dowd only deemed it worthy of a yellow. This was not an isolated incident. The Everton game plan essentially seemed to be ‘try and get Suarez stretchered off the pitch’, and Mirallas in particular was guilty of multiple fouls. How he didn’t get sent off is beyond me.
Unfortunately for them, even dirty tactics could not contain the Uruguayan. 19 minutes in, he won a free kick in a promising position. Agger, Gerrard and Suarez all looked interested in taking it, but in the end it was Suarez who took on the responsibility. He certainly delivered- his glorious, curling effort got through the (admittedly somewhat scrappy) wall and past the outstretched glove of Tim Howard. The game then died down a little, although both sides were still creating chances. Mignolet pulled off a couple of great saves to keep
Liverpool in front going into
After half time, it carried on in much the same way. With Baines off for Deulofeu, Everton became slightly more attacking, and
Liverpool were forced into defending quite a lot.
Mignolet made some astounding saves to retain the reds lead. With 30 minutes to
go, Joe Allen was presented with a glorious chance to reward Mignolet’s hard
work by all but sinking Everton. Suarez dances exceptionally through 3 Everton
defenders, and the ball broke for the Welshman. He was clean through on Howard,
with Suarez to his left. He opted to shoot, and understandably so, for it was a
very easy chance. However, he somehow put the ball wide of the target, letting
Everton off the hook. It was extremely frustrating; even if he wasn’t confident
taking on the simple shooting chance, why not just square it to Suarez for a
tap-in? Suarez seemed to be thinking along the same lines- he was visibly
furious with Allen.
This was arguably the catalyst that Everton required. They redoubled their efforts, and with 20 minutes to go levelled the game through Romelu Lukaku. The chance came after Mignolet made yet another sublime stop (he made 9 in total throughout the game), but could not gather the ball. The
Liverpool box was crowded with blue shirts, and when the
ball got driven it and fell to Lukaku, the outcome was inevitable. At this
point Rodgers took off Lucas for Sturridge, a real sign of intent.
Unfortunately, it did not immediately pay off. Everton won a corner in the 82nd
minute, which Lukaku headed powerfully home for his 2nd and
Everton’s 3rd, putting them in front for the first time. Sturridge
was on the line, but could not prevent the ball sailing over his head and in.
Despite the fact that there was so little time left, it didn’t really feel like the scoring was over, and so proved. With just a minute left of the ninety, substitute Daniel Sturridge headed home after a great free kick from the captain, Steven Gerrard. This brought things level, but
Liverpool were not done. They kept piling on the pressure
deep into added time, resulting in what was very nearly the winning goal.
Suarez was denied by a good save from Howard, and Sturridge actually put the
ball into the net, but from an offside position. Eventually the final whistle
blew, bringing the rollercoaster of a match to an end.
Mignolet gets my man of the match award, as without him we would have ended up with a result a lot worse than a draw. Jon Flanagan, who was filling in at left-back for Enrique and Cissokho, also deserves a mention. He made some good tackles, and though he didn’t provide much attacking impetus he was solid at the back. All in all, although it was disappointing not to win against our fierce rivals, a draw was probably a fair result. It was an excellent, hard-fought game of football, and a pleasure (albeit a stressful pleasure) to watch. It should be remembered that an away draw against e team sitting 6th in the table is nothing to be ashamed of, and with three very winnable games coming up the overriding feeling at Anfield should be optimism.
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