It was hardly the blood and thunder spectacle one has come to expect from the Merseyside Derby; scoreless at the final whistle, the rather tame effort at Goodison Park stands in sharp contrast to this very fixture last year that brought more heart-stopping moments than I care to recount.
This latest incarnation, despite being Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s last, quite often failed to register a pulse. Surprise inclusion Jordon Ibe’s woodwork rattling effort from distance and Simon Mignolet’s fine save from a Seamus Coleman shot — Everton’s first and only on target as stoppage time loomed — were two of the only items of any real note as the Reds kept their good run of form alive, but failed to show too much in the way of attacking incisiveness heading into an important meeting with Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.
Fate, it would seem, isn’t always the romantic it’s painted as.
Although he’d be well marshalled by Toffee’s defender John Stones for much of the match, Raheem Sterling provided an early outlet for the Liverpool attack as they looked to get off to a quick start across the park. A decent opportunity from the youngster was well handled by ‘keeper Joel Robles who had to be even more alert not long after when he tipped a trademark freekick from Gerrard over the bar and into the Gwladys Street End.
The visitors looked the better bet to take the lead throughout, but they’d produce few better chances than the ones that fell in quick succession to derby débutante Ibe. After seeing Lucas forced off through injury and replaced by Joe Allen, a deflected Raheem Sterling shot leaked through to the 19-year who’d scampered forward from his wing-back role, but a moment of hesitation on his part allowed the Everton ‘keeper to rush out and get a block in. Robles had absolutely no chance on his next effort though with Ibe expertly turning a retreating Bryan Oviedo before hammering a curling shot that only through a lack of luck ricocheted off the post rather than bulged the back of the net.
Romelu Lukaku cut an increasingly despondent figure as he ploughed a lone furrow up top as Liverpool’s back-line — especially the continuously impressive Emre Can — kept the big Belgian, and the rest of the Toffee’s attacking unit — quiet throughout the first half. Though, to be fair, no one from either side was yelling all too loud; Sterling had another chance to break the deadlock not long after the break, but his low shot at the near post was saved by Robles with no real trouble before the intervention of Steven Naismith’s forehead kept Gerrard’s acrobatic effort from troubling the Spaniard.
Daniel Sturridge, Aaron Lennon, Rickie Lambert and Ross Barkley would all find their way onto the pitch before the final whistle was blow, but none could make a contribution serious enough to liven up a match that is usually chalk full of excitement. The hosts came within mere minutes of playing this one out without registering a shot on target, but Barkley’s well played pass found Coleman in a position to trouble Mignolet for the first time in the match and make sure they didn’t leave the pitch quite as embarrassed as they might have been.
And just like that, Gerrard — much like Jamie Carragher before him — closed out his Merseyside Derby career with a match that failed to inspire. The slim possibility of these two sides meeting in the Europa League still exists, but we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it. Maybe fate will end up showing its romantic side after all…