The fierce Merseyside Derby was the first match of the double-header for Premier League Super Sunday. Brendan Rodgers, the first time to encounter the tremendous atmosphere at Goodison Park, decided to stick with the more enthusiastic Suso and Sterling. Glen Johnson was absent due to injuries, while Pepe Reina’s poor form this season only earned him a bench position. Young defender Andre Wisdom would anticipate a busy afternoon, especially with Fellaini back from injury to make up for the loss of Pienaar on the left flank due to suspension.
Both teams strived through the rain to start off the match at enormous pace. Nuri Sahin and Joe Allen, debutants of Merseyside Derby, slightly struggled to catch up with the speed but Kevin Mirallas did not show his nerve and nearly forced Daniel Agger on to an own goal.
There were already a lot of talking points prior to the match, but nothing is more dramatic than having Suarez to start the scoring. The controversial striker followed Enrique’s cross and his powerful shot would have gone out of the byline if it did not hit the thigh of a helpless Baines. Luis Suarez made use of the lucky goal to further irritate the home crowd with a “diving” celebration in front of David Moyes.
Captain Phil Neville warned Everton before the match that they got to keep their heads cool. Surely the goal was hard to swallow and even Phil Jagielka couldn’t recover promptly. The defender twice stopped Suarez in the final third early in the game, but the loosely-organised defence saw Jagielka leave Suarez with acres of space to head Gerrard’s Free kick into Everton’s net.
20 minutes and it’s 0-2 down. There was a mountain for Everton to climb, but the home supporter s made sure the players were not alone. Leon Osman quickly responded with a well-struck shot, which was slightly deflected off Joe Allen to make it harder to save, but it was goalkeeper Brad Jones who started the trouble by punching Baines’ corner right at the centre edge of the box to set up Osman’s shot.
All of a sudden, Everton was all over Liverpool. Brad Jones nearly made another error in set piece but was rescued by the referee’s whistle on Distin’s innocent foul on Jones. Everton decided to pile the pressure on Liverpool’s right back Andre Wisdom. Sterling intended to help ease the pressure of Wisdom but nearly got himself sent-off. Finally, the defence was torn apart. Jose Enrique let Naismith run at his back to meet Fellaini’s cross from the left to level the match. The thrilling first half ended with two goals for each side.
Several changes were made after interval. Magaye Gueye came in for Mirallas who limped off. Liverpool made a couple of tactical changes. The invisible Nuri Sahin was replaced by the more physical Jonjo Shelvey, and defender Coates came in for Suso. Sterling moved to a more central role to impose a more direct threat. However, the young prospect wasted a fantastic pass from Enrique and could not make it 3-2 early in the second half. Everton was indeed the more threatening side after the break, but Liverpool slowly consolidated the defence. Another out of favour midfielder was then converted by Rodgers into full back. Jordan Henderson came in for Andre Wisdom, who might be exhausted by the physical Derby.
There were more whistles than shots in the second half. Liverpool was looking increasingly dangerous in counter-attacks. Jonjo Shelvey restored the stability in the midfield and Everton did not help themselves with the substitution. Gueye never looked sharp and Everton could not reproduce their fluency on the left. The French winger was nearly the man to blame when he was robbed near his own byline, but Jagielka rescued him with a brave block over Gerrard’s shot.
Being booed is already a norm for Suarez. Whether he enjoys playing under it or not, he seems to care little about intensifying hatred from other supporters. A cynical foul on Distin could have easily got himself sent off for an early bath, although the referee did not listen to the crowd to produce the red card. Suarez was not distracted and remained focus in the game. He won the battle against Distin minutes later but only to see Baines’ sliding block stopped his shot to end up behind Tim Howard’s goal.
The game slowly developed into a stalemate, with both sides more interested in tackles rather than scoring. The latest drama was induced by a stupid tackle by Osman. Gerrard made another excellent delivery in the box and Suarez easily tapped in Coates’ squaring header. When Suarez and Gerrard were celebrating, the linesman disallowed the goal with his flag up. While there was no sign of offside, Coates appeared to jump unfairly to win the header. Silence in the crowd was soon turned into a sigh of relief.
It was a very entertaining match and leaving Goodison Park with a point is never a poor result for Liverpool. However, will Brendan Rodgers address the problem that his team failed to hold onto the lead again? In truth, they were never the better side in the match, but they should have done better to defend the two goals advantage. Liverpool still looks promising, but Brendan Rodgers still has a lot of work to promote them into top 6 in the league.
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