ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
LONDON • The anticipation is often superior to what materialises in a Merseyside derby and the 225th confrontation was no exception.
Confrontation is over-stating matters, as Everton and Liverpool delivered a local spat low on incident, quality or consequence. The spoils were shared along with the boredom.
Danny Ings marked his first derby appearance with a third goal in five appearances for Liverpool to ensure there was no fallout for Brendan Rodgers in his fight to regain favour at Anfield. The impressive Romelu Lukaku levelled quickly from the latest in a long line of Liverpool defence errors.
"We're disappointed with their goal," lamented Rodgers. "Mistakes have cost us again."
Although Everton controlled much of the second half, their poor record in the fixture now stands at only one win from the last 18 encounters with their local rivals.
"We're disappointed," said Lukaku. "We thought this was a great chance to beat them."
The Toffees started passively. Considering where the pressure and form rested ahead of kick-off, there was encouragement for Rodgers in the visitors' first-half display.
Liverpool created five openings before the home side threatened Simon Mignolet's goal. None were clear-cut but Tim Howard's sliding tackle on James Milner, Phil Jagielka's well-timed challenges on Daniel Sturridge and Ings, Martin Skrtel's free header over and Ings' half-volley reflected the flow of the opening exchanges. Howard also denied Milner at his near post following a neat one-two between the midfielder and Philippe Coutinho.
Jagielka was not only busy with Liverpool's attack but with organising an inexperienced Everton back-line. Tyias Browning, Ramiro Funes Mori and Brendan Galloway were making their first starts in a Merseyside derby in the absence of the injured John Stones and Seamus Coleman. All performed impressively, with Argentina international Funes Mori making a vital interception late on to prevent Sturridge racing clear onto Milner's through ball.
Offensively, Everton exploded into life midway through the half and twice went close to grabbing the lead. Mignolet repelled their advances superbly on both occasions.
First, the oft-criticised Belgium goalkeeper produced a brilliant finger-tip save to prevent Steven Naismith burying Ross Barkley's free kick with a header from 12 metres. Moments later, he turned away a James McCarthy drive from the edge of the area after good approach work from the hosts.
Goodison Park cranked into life when Emre Can and Barkley became embroiled in a silly spat over the ball and the first players booked as a consequence.
The derby finally had the atmosphere it deserved. Its opening goal arrived shortly afterwards when Barkley lost Ings at a Milner corner and, with Howard not dominating his six-yard area, the former Burnley striker was free to head home from close range.
Liverpool's corner came after Gerard Deulofeu had needlessly lost possession in his opponents' half, one of countless errors by the Spanish winger. Yet his one positive contribution resulted in the tireless Lukaku equalising for Everton on the stroke of half-time.
His cross from the right wing was dangerous but should have been routine for Can once it sailed over Lukaku's head. Instead, he sent an aimless clearance straight at Skrtel, the ball spun up off the Slovakian and the Everton forward did not waste the opportunity to find the bottom corner from eight metres out.