Everton v Liverpool - Saturday 23rd November 2013
To sum up this game ........WOW!
Whether you are a Liverpool fan, an Everton fan or a neutral, this was one of the most explosive and entertaining 90+ minutes of football you will have ever seen in the Premier League.
Listening to the atmosphere before the game you got that feeling that this wasn't going on be one of those holding no score draw derbies. Red v Blue on Merseyside is always an entertaining fixture, and this one didn't fail to disappoint. The game started off at a high tempo with both sides niggling each other and keen to get a good start to the game. That chance fell to Liverpool and Coutinho from a corner after only 4 minutes in. Everton failed to deal with the corner and Lukaku left Coutinho completely unmarked at the far post, with unbelieveably enough time to take a controlling touch inside the 6 yard box and volley it into the back of the net. It was a great goal from a Liverpool perspective, but was also the first of many impacts that Lukaku would have on this game.
However, the joy on the Red half of Merseyside was short lived, with Everton pegging us back 2 minutes later in almost a goal along the same lines of our first. The ball was floated into the box from an Everton free kick, and Liverpool failed to deal with the ball (even with 3 men around where it came in) and Mirallas had the easiest of finishes to level it up.
From this point on Everton pushed forward and tried to assert their home advantage. They have a good squad this season and they utilised it well to pass in and out of the midfield, however in open play they were unable to put it to any good effect. However, 10 minutes later (against the run of play it has to be said) Suarez restored our lead with an exquisite free kick. Howard failed to set up the Everton wall properly, and Suarez expertly bent the ball through the gap in the wall and left Howard with no chance reaching the ball in the bottom corner.
The goal silenced Goodison Park but only served to incite the 22 men on the pitch and increase the determination of both sides to take it to the opposition. This came to a head before the break with Mirallas challenging Suarez by putting his foot right through his knee at waist height. It was a horrible challenge, and after the game everyone (except maybe some Everton fans) agreed that it should have been a straight red, however as Mirallas later said, the fact that it was a derby probably stayed the refs hand a little bit and he only produced a yellow. This would later impact the game in a massive way, but it's one of those things in a game and there was nothing to be done at the time. Fortunately Suarez was able to shake off the limp with no lasting damage.
The game went back and forth for the rest of the half, and the early period of the second. Everton probably had the better opportunities to score but like a lot of times this season stuggled put the ball in the net from open play. Mignolet made a number of amazing saves, and was by far and away the best player on the Liverpool side during this game. He denied Everton time and again, and wasn't at the slightest fault for any of the goals conceded that afternoon.
Liverpool should have made the game safe when it was still at 2-1. Suarez with some amazing close ball control, and a little luck, managed to take it past 4 Everton defenders and it fell to the feet of Allen who only had to side foot it past Howard and the game would have been put to bed. Unfortuantely, in what was one of the worst misses I have seen in recent times, he put the ball on the wrong side of the post. Allen hasn't scored in the Premier League since moving to Anfield, and he won't get a better chance to do so. Suarez was clearly devestated, and that ended up being the turning point of the game.
Shortly after Lukaku broke back with an equaliser. Mignolet couldn't quite hold on to a deflected free kick from Lukaku and the ball ended up on the left with Mirallas (who like I said earlier was lucky to be on the pitch), who pulled it back in the area from where it took a ricochet and landed at the feet of Lukaku who slotted it into the net, for a deserved albeit lucky equaliser from Everton.
Goodison Park woke from it's 40 minute silence, and Everton were on the front foot, and 10 minutes late they took the lead from another set piece. The ball was floated in from a corner, and Lukaku rose (very Duncan Ferguson esk it has to be said) and headed the ball solidly into the back of the net. It was a good goal, but another example in this game of poor defending from a set piece. Liverpool looked shocked, but we let Everton back into the game rather than close it out, and unfortunately they do have the quality in their squad to run with that and they took full advantage of the luck they had on the Mirallas card, and the deflections for the second goal.
Liverpool managed to claw the equalising goal back just before the break, with Sturridge heading in from a Gerrard free kick, and leaving the scoree 3-3 at the end. Everton fans will call us lucky and say they should have won, but anyone who looks at the game objectively can see that both sides were guilty of not defending their set pieces properly, and Everton should have been with 10 men for most of the game.
On balance this was a great game of football to watch, both sides created great chances, scored good goals and were guilty of some poor defending. For the neutral you are unlikely to see a more exiciting game of football, and for Liverpool fans I think a point away from home against a strong Everton team this year is nothing to sniff at. We retained our second place and got a difficult tie out of the way. If we can get back to winning ways against Hull then we can push on towards Christmas/New Year and those 3 big games against Tottenham, Man City and Chelsea. If we can keep our form against the mid/lower table sides strong, then it is those 3 games that will define our season, and if I'm honest with this team I can't wait!
Liverpool Player of the Match - Mignolet (It is a little worrying when you best player is your keeper when you concede 3 goals in game, however he made some glorious saves in the game and can't be faulted for any of the goals. We will need him to retain this form throughout the season if we are to maintain top 4).
Everton Player of the Match - Lukaku (Guilt for our first goal and wasted a few glorious opportunities, but put the ball in the back of the net twice and is going to be a handful for a number of Premier League defences this season)
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