The 231st Merseyside derby will not live long in the memory as Everton failed to capitalise on a weaker than usual Liverpool side in an uneventful goalless draw at Goodison Park.
With a Champions League quarter-final second leg, in which they lead 3-0, against Manchester City to come on Tuesday the visitors could be forgiven for being preoccupied and manager Jurgen Klopp’s team selection reflected the importance of that game rather than this.
Despite a late rally in which Seamus Coleman and substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin could have snatched victory the Toffees’ seven-and-a-half-year wait for a derby win was extended to 17 matches.
Here, we examine four things learned from Goodison Park.
THE MISERYSIDE DERBY
The soul of Merseyside is a living and breathing beast, which when harnessed by Liverpool or Everton can turn this fixture into a feisty and ferocious affair.
But despite the vivid display of contrasting red and blue at Goodison Park, the 231st meeting between the city’s inhabitors was utterly colourless.
Of the three games to open up April for Liverpool, this fixture’s timing – sandwiched between the Champions League last-eight tie with City – was always likely to retreat it into irrelevance.
Compound Klopp’s European priority with a limited Everton side which currently sits in mid-table and is extremely low on confidence and a dire derby was entirely predictable.
The earlier kick-off time, deluge of rain and a weakened Reds squad hit by injuries all played their part in what was a truly miserable Merseyside Derby.
From a Liverpool perspective, it wasn’t a completely negative day. Indeed, Klopp’s side came through the game with their pride and personnel intact with key players handed a necessary break while others executed a dress rehearsal for Tuesday’s trip to the Etihad Stadium.
Captain Jordan Henderson was tremendous in the first-leg against City in a Liverpool midfield trio which produced an absolute masterclass. A soft booking will mean he misses the second-leg through suspension and his absence was rightly being met with pessimism.
However, Georginio Wijnaldum was the best player on pitch on Saturday, operating in the No6 role he’ll inhabit on Tuesday.
The Dutchman achieved the most touches (91) and most passes (81) in the game and was second only to Ragnar Klavan for passing accuracy with 96.8 per cent.
Beyond the numbers, though, he was deeply impressive, using his physicality to protect possession while frequently using the ball from the deep pivot for the runners ahead of him.
He ran the show, and away from home as well, which will be hugely comforting for Klopp who will be without Emre Can and Henderson on Tuesday.
BASHING FOR BOLASIE
Yannick Bolasie came closest to finding the net as his caressed curler forced a stunning finger-tip stop from Liverpool No1 Loris Karius in the first half.
The strike, quite literally, was the sole piece of positivity from Bolasie in an otherwise abhorrent performance.
Goodison Park can be a hostile atmosphere for the home side at the best of times, but there was a cacophony of frustration whenever a fancy flick was followed by poor distribution.
The winger looked well off the pace, was prone to lapses of concentration both on and off the ball with the adjectives clumsy and clueless perhaps the best synopsis of his display. He was mercilessly hooked on the hour with his pass accuracy of 35 per cent the worst by any outfield player, and by some distance, too.
Bolasie is arguably the most obvious example of Everton’s peculiar dealings in the transfer market – he flatters to deceive.
EVERTON FAIL TO TAKE THEIR CHANCE
In truth, the responsibility was on Everton to make this a spectacle and they ultimately failed to show up.
With Klavan uncomfortably slotting in at left-back, Liverpool’s front three shorn of their 38-goal marksman Mohamed Salah through injury and Roberto Firmino afforded a break on the bench, the impetus was on Sam Allardyce to pump up this clash.
But after a positive start, the air quickly escaped and left in its wake a flatulent mess. There was no spark from the hosts and if one statistic best exemplifies their lack of ambition it was that for the first hour, the most passes into the attacking half was from the boot of Jordan Pickford.
It’s not hyperbole to suggest this was one of the most boring derby days in recent memory and Allardyce cops a portion of blame for that.
Up until the final 10 minutes when Everton did finally to arise from their slumber, they looked the side to experience an unrelenting European midweek encounter.
Why a partnership of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Cenk Tosun was gambled upon against Man City and not against Liverpool was truly baffling.
And that is justified when Dejan Lovren looked incredibly anxious up against Calvert-Lewin when when was eventually introduced. This was the game to go two up top and the Blues paid for a lack of enterprise.
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