Pre-pandemic or post-pandemic the odds are that a Goodison Park derby will end with honours even and so it came pass again. A seventh draw in the last eight instalments of this fixture played as Everton edged Liverpool a point closer to the Premier League title but it was a disjointed old scrap that neither side really deserved to win.
If Liverpool exerted more pressure overall then Everton’s resilient defence deserve credit for rendering them relatively impotent in attack. The rust fell off the champions-elect in bucketloads after the three-month break.
It was Everton who came closest to pinching victory with ten minutes left when Tom Davies’s shot was deflected onto the post by Joe Gomez after a flick by Dominic Calvert-Lewin had brought a sprawling stop by Allison.
Richarlison also brought a save out of the Liverpool keeper shortly afterwards but that elusive first victory over their arch-rivals for a decade remained out of reach.
Whether it was the length of the lay-off or the unfamiliarity of emerging into Goodison Park from a temporary changing room in a car park portable cabin, Liverpool were sluggish from the start.
It took half an hour for the visitors to find some semblance of rhythm. When they did Joel Matip wasted a golden chance to give Liverpool the lead from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s precision free-kick.
Roberto Firmino also dragged an opportunity wide as Liverpool upped the ante and Alexander-Arnold a save from England teammate Jordan Pickford from a curling free-kick.
Alexander-Arnold was as big a threat as before lockdown from setpieces but he was also on the end of a couple of colourful rollickings from Jurgen Klopp when he was careless with possession, tirades which were amusingly audible from the empty stands.
Also part of the surreal soundtrack of an eerie occasion were the strains of a lone saxophonist outside the ground whose playlist included Joy Division and The Beatles.
Such was the unique nature of the 236th Merseyside derby.
Goodison Park was decorated with a series of fan murals behind one goal and a collection of giant flags from the countries Everton’s players are drawn from covering the seats.
It is a multi-national cast list but with a new English addition in 19-year-old youth international Anthony Gordon who was handed his first start on the left hand side of midfield yesterday. After a nervy start he settled in well before being replaced on the hour.
The change to five substitutes came in handy for Liverpool who – already without Andy Robertson – lost two more defenders during the game.
Milner limped off just before the break with a hamstring injury and then Matip followed him with a toe problem picked up in an accidental clash with Richarlison.
With Klopp, who kept Mo Salah on the bench, also shuffling his tactical cards Liverpool could have finished the game shorthanded had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s introduction come at half time. Interval substitutions are exempt from the three interchange maximum that has been brought in mid-season.
As it was the defensive comings and goings left them disorientated at the back and the disruption was exploited by Everton as Liverpool’s shape dissolved.
Richarlison blazed an opportunity on the break into the stands after a slick through ball from Calvert-Lewin and then came the two chances in as many minutes as Everton threatened a big finish.
Pickford though was also required to tip over a free-kick by Fabinho in added time which could have nicked the points for the visitors.
In the end a point apiece was the right outcome and a wholly predictable one at that.
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Published at Sun, 21 Jun 2020 20:09:00 +0000