We knew going in to this one that it was going to be a different kind of Merseyside Derby considering the second leg of Liverpool’s Champions League quarter-final tie with Manchester City is looming on Tuesday and lacking the intensity, the vitriol and the goals we’ve come to expect from this fixture, “different” is exactly what we were treated to.
Fielding what amounted to a second string side, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp clearly had other things in mind, but presented with their best chance of snapping a 17-match winless run against their closest rivals in front of their own fans, his counter-part in Sam Allardyce decided to play — what’s a nice word for this? — conservative. It’s safe to say that the former Bolton Wanderers manager isn’t exactly known for his attacking football and there was no way he was going to change that perception today.
Really, if you didn’t know better, you would have thought they were on the road. Following a blustery start, they allowed the visitors to control proceedings by conceding possession and they were almost made to pay for it early on when Dominic Solanke saw his close range shot expertly saved by Blues ‘keeper Jordan Pickford after Seamus Coleman’s fluffed clearance ended up at the feet of the youngster.
A rare bit of attacking intent from the hosts forced Reds shot-stopper Loris Karius in to action when the German expertly tipped Yannick Bolasie’s powerful strike past the post — the only shot Everton would register on target.
Pickford, as expected, was the busier of the two and he’d have to save from James Milner and Virgil van Dijk before the break as the Reds looked to grab a first half lead, but besides a thunderous Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain effort and the hint of what could have been a late winner from Trent Alexander-Arnold, it’d actually be the hosts that’d look the most likely to find the breakthrough.
They never would, of course, but for the last ten minutes or so they thought they’d maybe try to kinda make a match of it. And again, they never quite did, but at least they tried to make some football or something.
“A point is OK. Everton were always ready to fight but we didn’t give them the opportunity until the late stages, we stopped playing football and were a bit lucky,” said Klopp following the final whistle. “But that is what we have to take. I think it’s an absolutely deserved draw,” continued the German. “For 75 minutes we were completely in charge. I am absolutely OK, it’s not the best day in my life but let’s carry on,” added the gaffer, immediately shifting his attention back to the Champions League. “Now we have to focus immediately and be ready again on Tuesday, let’s fight for the next round.”
Instead of Roberto Firmino, we had Solanke. In place of Mohamed Salah, there was Danny Ings. No Andrew Robertson meant that Ragnar Klavan — ??? — slotted in on the flank. Alexander-Arnold was given a break and Nathaniel Clyne started his first match of the season. It was a different link-up and a different derby and a draw was about the deserved result.
Think that’s strange to say? Yeah, me too, but with our spot in the top four secure for another week and the chance to go through to the semi-finals of the Champions League on the cards, I’m content with the fact that we didn’t lose. I know that’s sad, but at least now I understand a bit better what it’s like to be a Evertonian…