by Murphy-Joe O’Reilly (@MurphyOReilly)
Everything felt different. No crowd. No atmosphere. But, alas, it’s the mighty Reds – our team, our club – on our tv screens for the first time in just over three months. And it’s the derby too. So I, for one, was buzzing.
But it was all a bit frustrating, wasn’t it?
What ensued was a rather drab 0-0 draw; which, ironically, given all the hype, is what we should have expected (since 2010, six out of the seven Goodison derbies have ended in stalemate).
But the rusty display left us all a little underwhelmed. Sure, it was great to see the lads back on the pitch, but three points – as the popular cliche goes – is all we really wanted.
Then again, I suppose we should be grateful for the fact football is back. ‘Null and void’ did, at one stage, look a grim possibility, so a point against Everton isn’t that bad in comparison!
As Virgil Van Dijk put it in the post-match interview on SkySports: “I think everyone is just happy to be back.”
And it does move the Reds one step closer to the Premier League title. 6 points needed has become 5 points needed.
The line-up Klopp selected saw talisman Mohammed Salah benched (which was understandable; the Egyptian’s been nursing a knock) and fan favourite Andy Robertson – who only recently returned to training – left out of the squad as a precaution.
Klopp stuck with his tried and tested 4-3-3 Liverpool set up, but the absence of left-back Robbo was telling. The Scotsman – who offers pace, width and dynamism aplenty – is a key cog, having already bagged seven assists in the premier league so far this season. James Milner is more than a capable deputy (that’s obvious) but pulled up early on with what looked to be a hamstring strain. Joe Gomez, a centre-half by trade, proved his adaptability and filled the void. Nevertheless, it again highlighted the need for a more like-for-like backup.
Joel Matip, Takumi Minamino, Naby Keita and the returning Alisson Becker also made starting berths.
The game itself:
Keita and Minamino saw plenty of the action early on. The former looked neat and tidy and was only a more accurate shot away from opening the scoring.
Minamino, once Keita’s RB Salzburg compatriot, was also heavily involved, dovetailing nicely with Bobby Firmino in the middle, showing glimpses of what he offered for Salzburg at Anfield in October – style, endeavour and some party-tricks too. The Japanese international played just forty-five minutes however and was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on half-time.
Seven games unbeaten at home, Everton were confident of causing an upset. And justifiably. The hosts’ gameplan – to absorb pressure and counter – almost came up trumps. Tom Davis and Dominic Calvert-Lewin were both inches away from stealing all three points towards the end; the former struck the post after an excellent save from goalkeeper Alisson.
But a point seemed the fair result… to everyone besides Jamie Carragher! The Liverpool legend believes Everton deserved the win due to their persistence in defence and, as a partial result of that persistence, their clear-cut chances on the break.
Hard to argue with, but when you’ve had 67% possession, you have to think Liverpool were their own worst enemy at times. Which I think is true; we frustrated ourselves and allowed Everton to exploit the space we left open without the likes of Robbo on the pitch.
There were moments of sluggishness, wayward (and misplaced) passes, a bad touch here and there. Whatever was the problem, no player stood out and took the game by the scruff of the neck. And that’s to be expected (given the circumstances). Like Klopp said, ‘we’ll learn a hell of a lot from this performance and make adjustments where we need to’. No need to panic.
Post-match and player ratings:
What we need now is time. Time to find our groove again. Time to erase the mistakes. And with Salah and Robertson back in the fold, Wednesday’s game against Crystal Palace may provide a perfect opportunity.
Either way, I’m sure we’re all excited to get back to Anfield and see the Reds back to their fast-flowing, defensively sound, dynamic best.
Role on Palace. Up the Reds.
Alisson – 8
TAA – 7
VVD – 7
Matip – 6
Milner – 6
Fabino – 7
Henderson – 7
Keita – 8
Minamino – 8
Firmino – 7
Mane – 6
Lovren – 4
Ox – 7
Gini – 6
Origi – 7