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Reds slip to Everton's level

Liverpool verdict - Reds slip to Everton's level but nothing decided by disappointing Merseyside derby draw

James Pearce watches Liverpool fall behind in the Premier League title race - but says the Reds can take extra motivation from Evertonian taunts

By James Pearce

09:15, 4 MAR 2019

Liverpool suffered derby day disappointment after dropping two points after a 0-0 draw with bitter rivals Everton at Goodison Park.

The Reds missed several good chances to score and in doing so missed the chance to move back ahead of Man City at the top of the Premier League table.

It's now four draws in their last six Premier League games for Liverpool, a run of results that has allowed City to take back the initiative in the title race for the first time since early December.

Here's James Pearce's verdict from Goodison Park after a disappointing day for the Reds:

The longest unbeaten run in Merseyside derby history goes on – but the celebrations belonged to Liverpool's neighbours.

As Goodison erupted at the final whistle, the body language of those in red spoke volumes. This was a dour stalemate which felt like a painful defeat.

Jurgen Klopp 's side squandered the opportunity to regain top spot in the Premier League table and they only had themselves to blame.

Having rediscovered their mojo in the thrashing of Watford in midweek, they carelessly lost it on the short journey across Stanley Park. Standards slipped alarmingly.
We're reacting to Liverpool's draw against Everton HERE

Composure was conspicuous by its absence as Liverpool delivered an error-strewn performance. Rather than show why they are 33 points better off than their neighbours, they slipped down to Everton's level.

The Reds should still have won a scrappy contest largely devoid of quality, but they wasted some gilt-edged chances with 20-goal top scorer Mohamed Salah enduring an afternoon to forget.

Twice, the Egyptian attacker failed to convert openings which he would have tucked away with his eyes closed last season.

When Klopp needed his star names to step up and deliver in enemy territory, too many were way off the pace .

Virgil van Dijk was immense defensively as Liverpool kept a fifth successive clean sheet in all competitions but around him there was far too much mediocrity. There was no control, no swagger.

For the first time since December 7, the destination of the trophy Kopites crave more than any other is no longer in the Reds' hands.

Some will inevitably reach for the panic button and declare that the title race is over. That's nonsense.

Manchester City find themselves a point clear with nine matches remaining . The finish line is too far away for this slip up to immediately be labelled as season-defining.

Only time will tell how damaging this draw is. But whereas a week earlier a point at Old Trafford against a resurgent Manchester United side could be viewed as a decent result, there's no polishing this one. Plain and simple, it's a damaging setback.

Predictably, Marco Silva's side raised their game – inspired by a raucous atmosphere which was fuelled by a burning desire to put a dent in Liverpool's title hopes.

Klopp had coined it “kind of their World Cup final” and the hosts performed like it with the mid-table Blues desperate to salvage something from a season of massive under-achievement.

But Everton were there for the taking, especially in the second half when they started to take more risks and left themselves exposed on the counter-attack. Time and time again Liverpool's decision making let them down.

'We don't play PlayStation' - Jurgen Klopp launches staunch defence of of substitutions after Liverpool draw with Everton

Questions will rightly be asked about Klopp's substitutions after he overlooked the claims of Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri when the Reds were crying out for some inspiration in the second half.

Bringing on James Milner was the safe option when many will have been urging the manager to go for the jugular .

That's 19 derbies unbeaten now stretching back nine years but the regrets belonged to Liverpool on this occasion.

The return of Jordan Henderson in place of Milner was the only change from the midweek rout of Watford but the Reds were unrecognisable.

For a start, their set-pieces and deliveries into the box from wide areas were largely abject as they repeatedly failed to beat the first defender.

Salah, so dangerous against the Hornets, looked shorn of his powers away from the comfort of Anfield as his touch kept letting him down.

The opening stages were typically frenetic with Liverpool's pressing succeeding in forcing Everton to hit it long and surrender possession.

The problem was that Klopp's men didn't use the ball well enough with some of their distribution leaving much to be desired.

Henderson's lofted pass picked out the run of Salah but Seamus Coleman got back to clear the danger. Salah then tested Jordan Pickford before Sadio Mane was agonisingly close to punishing Michael Keane's weak header.

At the other end Alisson Becker commanded his penalty box expertly and in front of him Van Dijk against Dominic Calvert-Lewis was a mismatch. It was man against boy as the Dutch defender won his aerial battles and oozed class throughout.

Just before the half-hour mark Liverpool should have broken the deadlock.

Fabinho, who was the pick of the midfield, released Salah with a delightful pass.

Salah was through on goal but a poor touch made the angle tighter and Pickford ended up denying him. Henderson's effort from the rebound was blocked.

Liverpool had been the better side for 45 minutes without being particularly convincing. But Silva took the handbrake off at half-time and the second half was more of a contest with Everton showing more ambition.

Alisson was belatedly forced into action as he clung on to Calvert-Lewin's header.

Gini Wijnaldum endured a rare off day in the engine room for Liverpool and Divock Origi rarely looked like being a derby match-winner for the second time this season after Roberto Firmino was deemed only fit enough for a cameo role.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's free-kick was comfortably saved by Pickford before Salah latched on to a deflected pass from Joel Matip. Once again there was a lack of conviction from Salah, who delayed the shot and allowed Keane to get back and make a last-ditch tackle.

Klopp took action just past the hour mark as Firmino and Milner replaced Origi and Wijnaldum.

Suddenly, there was more space to exploit as the game got increasingly stretched. Firmino picked out Mane at the far post but he couldn't direct his header on target.

Fabinho could have been the hero after Van Dijk nodded back across goal. However, the Brazilian's first touch was heavy and with the net gaping, Lucas Digne slid in to stop him from tucking it away.

Having already brought on Richarlison, Andre Gomes and Cenk Tosun followed as the Blues started to believe they could end their long derby drought.

Bernard threatened but the outstanding Van Dijk halted him with a perfectly timed challenge on the edge of the box.

Matip and Van Dijk both wasted presentable chances late on as Adam Lallana for Mane was Klopp's final throw of the dice. There was no way through.

'You're gonna win **** all', crowed the jubilant home fans before celebrating their point.

Those taunts should provide added motivation for Liverpool during the run-in.

Nothing was decided at Goodison. This title race remains very much alive but the margin for error is now incredibly small.

MATCH FACTS

Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Schneiderlin (Gomes 76), Gueye, Bernard, Walcott (Richarlison 60), Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin (Tosun 74).

Not used: Stekelenburg, Jagielka, Davies, Kenny.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson. Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum (Milner 63), Salah, Origi (Firmino 63), Mane (Lallana 84).

Not used: Mignolet, Keita, Sturridge, Shaqiri.

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Attendance: 39, 335

Goals: none

Bookings: Walcott, Robertson, Fabinho.

Man of the match: Virgil van Dijk. Immense again.

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