Press Association match report

A lone Scottish piper played a rousing tune as the players walked on to the pitch. It is apparently designed to stoke the fires in Everton's Scottish contingent. No-one could say it didn't work. Seven players were booked in a disappointing Merseyside derby which was as passionate, as frantic and as hot-blooded as the last 158 encounters between these two proud teams.

If Glenn Hoddle could instil just a fraction of the commitment on show at Goodison today into his England side qualification for the European Championships would not be in doubt.

Neither team - rather like England - possessed, however, enough creation or invention or rudimentary skill to unlock either defence. Liverpool's Michael Owen must have felt as if he was back against Bulgaria or Luxembourg, toiling his heart out but receiving hardly any ammunition from a Liverpool side whose supply lines were at times threadbare.

Robbie Fowler must be wondering how he gets back into the England side after missing a string of Liverpool's best chances.

Jamie Redknapp struggled to provide the necessary spark in midfield. And though Paul Ince, fresh on account of his international suspensions, showed the bite which England lacked in midweek, he was never at his best in a game dominated by defences.

Owen might have broken the deadlock just a minute from the end but he was eased aside by man-of-the match Dave Watson, who kept the livewire youngster uncommonly quiet throughout.

It means Liverpool's derby jinx goes on. In the parochial battle between these teams Liverpool have not won at Goodison since 1990 and have failed to beat their neighbours in the last nine league games.

And this draw is worrying in terms of their title hopes. It means they have now taken just three points from a possible 15 and they can only watch as the likes of Manchester United disappear over the Premiership horizon. As for Everton their goal famine goes on.

They have failed to score all season so far at Goodison and their build-up play was so poor that it was difficult to see where any chances, let alone, goals were to come from. Certainly, Ibrahim Bakayoko, the 21-year-old Ivory Coast striker brought from Montpellier earlier this week, must have wondered what he had let himself in for.
Goodison Park today, with a cold and capricious wind and a frenetic atmosphere, was just about as far away as you could get from the swaying palm trees and balmy breezes of the Ivory Coast.

Nevertheless, the striker almost made a scorching start to his career in English football when his glancing header from Michael Ball's cross slanted just wide of Liverpool's goal in the first minute. It served as a warning for an Anfield side which continues to look shaky in defence.

And while Everton pressed forward with the determination expected of the home side it was Liverpool who displayed the greater penetration. A crisp left-foot shot from Fowler was palmed away by Everton goalkeeper Thomas Myhre in the 12th minute.
Six minutes later Myhre was again called on to rescue Everton. And it was Fowler, sharp and incisive, who once more latched onto Veggard Heggem's intelligent through ball to bring a smothering save from the keeper. If only Fowler's approach play had been matched by his finishing.

Everton's best move of the match came from a cleverly-worked free-kick. David Unsworth dummied to shoot, but instead flicked the ball to John Collins whose 20-yard thunderbolt was gratefully gathered by Liverpool goalkeeper David James. But with Owen going close and a powerful Stig Bjornebye shot causing Myhre problems Liverpool looked to be gaining control.

The second-half, however, was remarkable only for the fact that it was even more dire than the first, neither side being able to summon up a cutting edge. Duncan Ferguson, so often the goal-poacher in this derby encounter, had a left-foot shot saved by James and a right-foot effort deflected by Steve Staunton.

But apart from the bustle of the big Scotsman Everton showed little firepower and Bakayoko must have been relieved when he was substituted by Mitch Ward in the 67th minute.

At least Everton showed some signs of coming out of their Goodison torpor and being able once again to mix it with the big boys of the Premiership. For Liverpool's Gerard Houllier and Roy Evans it suggests there is a long winter ahead.

There were seven bookings, John Cleland and David Unsworth and Don Hutchison for Everton and Bjornebye, Ince, Fowler and Karlheinz Riedle for Liverpool. But it was never a dirty game, just tough and uncompromising in the steely tradition of these contests.

In many ways it was a great occasion - just a dreadful football match.

Everton: Myhre, Cleland, Ball, Watson, Unsworth, Collins, Ferguson, Hutchison, Short, Grant (Cadamarteri 57), Bakayoko (Ward 68).
Subs Not Used: Gerrard, Farrelly, Madar.
Booked: Cleland, Unsworth, Hutchison.

Liverpool: James, Staunton, McManaman, Fowler, Owen, Redknapp (McAteer 45), Heggem, Berger (Riedle 87), Ince, Bjornebye, Carragher (Kvarme 50).
Subs Not Used: Matteo, Warner.
Booked: Bjornebye, Ince, Fowler, Riedle.

Ref: P Durkin (Portland).

Copyright - Press Association

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