by Hasib Afzal (@LFCTalk7)
Liverpool and Everton shared the spoils after a pulsating 238th Merseyside Derby. In a game dotted with talking points, the biggest talking point of all was Jordan Pickford’s near-assault on centre-half Virgil Van Dijk, forcing the latter off the field and then to hospital.Embed from Getty Images
Early Pressure From The Reds
From the off, it was all Liverpool – authoriative and bullish, like champions should be. With just three minutes on the clock, a cross-field pass from Salah picked out Robertson on the left who then delivered a telling ball to Sadio Mane who netted his fourth goal of the new campaign, hammering home past a helpless Pickford.
And the Reds smelt blood, continuing to pour forward in numbers, but with one attack resulting in Everton goalkeeper Pickford clattering Van Dijk in his own six-yard box with a reckless two-footed lung. A VAR check followed, deeming Van Dijk to be offside after an initial clipped ball from Fabinho, so no pentalty was rewarded. But Pickford, who remained on the field for the full 90, was surely fortunate not to see red.
Van Dijk, unable to continue, was replaced by Joe Gomez. The Dutchman was later pictured leaving a nearby hospital on crutches.
Everton Level Against The Run Of Play
With their mainstay centre back now off the field, Liverpool looked frail at the back, and it took ten to fifteen minutes for the Reds to fully reorganise and recover.
And it was in this period that Everton snatched an equaliser, with Michael Keane heading home from a James Rodriguez corner. 1-1. 20 minutes gone.
With everything to play for, Liverpool responded well. On 26′, a high boot on Mane earned Liverpool a free kick in a dangerous position. Alexander-Arnold’s resulting strike seemed destined for the top corner only for the sprawling Pickford to deny him with an outstanding save.
The frantic pace of the game began to take its toll. This time it was Everton who suffered with Seamas Coleman leaving the field with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Level at the break.
On 60′, a delicious cross from Rodriguez was met by the head of Richarlison at the back post only to be kept out by a combination of Adrian and the woodwork.
And then on 72′, Yerri Mina’s failed attempt at clearing the ball saw Mo Salah profit, rifling the ball into the bottom corner. Liverpool 2-1 ahead. No chance for Pickford.
But with ten minutes to go man of the moment, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, levelled. Digne delivered from the left, and Calvert-Lewin rose highest to head home past Adrian.
Tempers continued to flare as, in the dying embers, Richarlson was sent off for a wild lunge on Thiago – who also now may also face a spell on the sidelines. Out of control and, yet again, reckless. Everton down to 10.
The drama didn’t end there. With three minutes to go, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson bundled home from a Mane cross to send the Liverpool players into ecstasy. However, the jubilation was short lived as the VAR, bewilderingly, flagged Mane offside by what seems like the narrowest of margins… harsh is an understatement.
Everton, rather fortunately, retain their unbeaten record and stay 3 points clear of the Reds. But there were plenty of positives for Liverpool despite the draw. Nevertheless, the impact of the injury to Van Dijk – the result of which (i.e. the layoff) is still unknown – is no doubt the main talking point.
Here is what Jurgen Klopp had to say on the draw:
“Performance-wise very, very happy. Best away game we’ve played here since I started managing. We gave away two goals on set-pieces after changing formation.“
“We were dominant against a flying side. Different things happened today. This type of offside I didn’t see in the Virgil and Pickford incident.“
On the Henderson goal being ruled out: “I don’t know where the line is where you can do offside.
“Yes, we should have won this game. The boys played a super game. against a side with quality and confidence. Dominating from the first second is absolutely exceptional“.