Press Association report

Liverpool must surely say goodbye to the championship after this ferocious Merseyside derby.

That they hauled themselves back in the game to force a face-saving draw in this local skirmish did little to mask the shattering blow they suffered in the real war with Manchester United.

Victory would have taken Liverpool into second place in the FA Carling Premiership, but even a draw leaves them a massive nine points behind the leaders and champions, with only eleven games left. Miracles do happen, but not ones like this in soccer.

Liverpool fans left Anfield in near silence as Everton's supporters serenaded their hosts with a little ditty that suggested they were going to win nothing this season!

Everton have claimed a vital point in the relegation battle, thanks to a wonderful display by goalkeeper Thomas Myhre and resolute defence by the likes of Dave Watson - probably playing his last derby - Slaven Bilic and Carl Tiler.

Everton have now taken four points from their local rivals this term, pickings that could mean so much at the end of the season to both camps.

The draw means Everton are now unbeaten in eight derby matches, and for some time in the second period, Duncan Ferguson's drive looked like clinching a double.

The other captain, Paul Ince, forced home an equaliser, to protect local pride - but at the other end of the East Lancashire Road, United were already writing off Roy Evans' team as genuine opposition in the final weeks of the season.

It was a thrilling clash, uncompromising and expertly refereed by Peter Jones, who kept it flowing but made sure the real nasty stuff never became the norm.

But offering a good spectacle will be of no consolation to Liverpool, who have seen their Wembley dreams and now title aspirations virtually blown away in six traumatic days.

The game could have been all over inside the first seven minutes when Liverpool threw away gilt-edged chances.

The first after just two minutes saw Steve McManaman thread a pass through to Michael Owen on the right, and the newly-capped England youngster surged into the box but mishit his shot badly wide of the far post.

Two minutes later Robbie Fowler met a clearance 30 yards out with a shot of fierce venom that Thomas Myhre somehow managed to get the faintest of touches to and flick over the bar.

Everton were being roasted down the right in this whirlwind opening, and McManaman once again put Owen clear on the flank to race into the box but this time seeing Myhre, on his derby debut, blocked the close-range drive.

Somehow Everton were surving this onslaught and their only respite in a torrid spell was a sensational Mickael Madar left-foot volley from way out on the left that David James palmed away at full stretch.

Claus Thomsen got away with a bad foul on Paul Ince, but Gareth Farrelly was not so fortunate after 12 minutes when he was cautioned for clattering Jamie Redknapp, back after his cartilage operation, from behind.

The threat of Duncan Ferguson against a fragile Liverpool backline was evident after 21 minutes when James flapped badly at a cross under pressure from the Scot, and Madar saw his shot aimed at an empty net hacked away by Jamie Carragher.

Everton's defence were standing their ground, fighting for every inch.

And they produced a brilliant breakaway move that ended with James tipping the ball round a post after Ferguson had been put clear in the box by Slaven Bilic.

Danny Cadamarteri was next to be cautioned for a late tackle on Redknapp as the ferocity of the battle barely slackened.

But the half ended with another glorious Liverpool chance that should have been buried when Paul Ince sent Oyvind Leonardsen clear, and Myhre once again saved superbly.

John Oster came on for the injured Cadamatari at the break, and Carl Tiler became the third Everton played booked for a foul on Owen, and the sting had ebbed away from Liverpool's play.

And after 58 minutes the men in blue grabbed the lead when Michael Ball's throw was knocked back for Ferguson to drive in from the edge of the box.

Liverpool were rocking now and the Frenchman Madar had two wonderful chances to kill them off completely.

One he drove wide after being put clear on the right, and then came a staggering miss that left the import from Deportivo La Coruna shattered mentally.

James rushed to the edge of his box to make a complete hash of a punch-out, and Madar found himself goalside of the 'keeper with only one defender in front of him. Incredibly he managed to miss the target!

Liverpool took full advantage. Sixty seconds later they were at the other end, McManaman had a shot blocked and Ince struck home the equaliser from the edge of the six-yard box.

As Liverpool celebrated, a quick look to the other end showed Madar, head in hands, distraught, unable to stomach the implications of his miss.

Three minutes later Howard Kendall hauled him off, and the long-haired striker took ages to almost crawl to the touchline in despair to disappear down the tunnel with barely a backward glance.

Gavin McCann came to add steel to a midfield that was being increasingly overun and forced backwards.

Liverpool were in full flow now, Mitch Ward deflected a Leonhardsen low drive wide and when Oster finally broke out of defence, he couldn't find a single colleague withing 40 yards of him to help out.

Fowler, who had worked so hard all night, tested Myhre from 20 yards and Redknapp's swirler from the same distance cleared the far angle by inches.

Then Redknapp drilled a low drive that Myrhe touched away at full stretch with just six minutes left.

Liverpool: James, Jones, Kvarme, McManaman, Leonhardsen, Fowler (Murphy, 90), Redknapp, Harkness, Ince, Owen, Carragher.

Subs not used: Berger, Thompson, Rizzo, Friedel.

Everton: Myhre, Watson, Madar (McCann, 70), Ferguson, Thomsen, Farrelly, Ward, Tiler, Ball, Bilic, Cadamarteri (Oster, 46).

Subs not used: Short, Gerrard, Thomas.

Booked: Farrelly, Cadamarteri, Tiler.

Attendance: 44,501.

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).

Copyright - Press Association

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