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Mohamed Salah and Liverpool frustrated as Everton claim derby draw

Andy Hunter at Goodison Park

Sun 3 Mar 2019 18.25 GMT

'It's not like PlayStation': Jürgen Klopp takes offence to questions after Everton draw – video

Jürgen Klopp beat the Liver bird on his chest in front of Liverpool fans gathered in the Bullens Road stand but the noise that pulsated around Goodison Park after the final whistle emanated from elsewhere. Everton’s long wait for victory in a Merseyside derby goes on but they found ample compensation in damaging their rivals’ bid for the Premier League title.

On a local level the 233rd Merseyside derby brought Liverpool closer to the nine-year anniversary of their last defeat by Everton and extended their unbeaten run to a record 17 matches. But Liverpool are not competing on a local level this season, not when a first league championship since 1990 stands tantalisingly on the horizon. By that rarefied standard this represented a fairly dispiriting trip across Stanley Park for Klopp. The comfort belonged mainly to Marco Silva and his committed team who, as the noise levels that greeted an otherwise forgettable goalless draw testified, departed the happier by far.

For the first time since 7 December Liverpool find themselves playing catch-up to Manchester City in the title race, having played an identical number of games. Their manager’s defiant message to the away support afterwards spoke of resilience and belief, and neither should be undermined by a one-point gap, but a fourth draw in six league outings reflects the lack of conviction that has afflicted Liverpool too often in 2019. They created the clearest openings at Goodison with Mohamed Salah clean through on goal twice and Fabinho presented with a golden opportunity at close range. None were taken thanks to interventions that reflected Everton’s wholehearted display through Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane and Lucas Digne respectively.

Everton were certainly up for the 200th league edition of the most played derby in English football, crowd and players alike. Goodison was a febrile old place before kick-off as it produced its finest atmosphere of the season for a fixture that offered Silva’s side an opportunity to connect with an exasperated fanbase. Tony Bellew, the former world champion boxer and vocal Evertonian, said a few prayers when the game began and within seconds a pumped-up Seamus Coleman clattered into Divock Origi, Liverpool’s 96th-minute hero when the rivals met in December. Theo Walcott of all people collected the first booking for a foul on the same player after merely seven minutes.

Liverpool needed time to find their rhythm in the face of a quick and aggressive Everton display. Dominic Calvert-Lewin refused to be intimidated by the power and height in Liverpool’s central defence and worked ferociously across the front line, though he was too often left isolated when Pickford pinged wasteful clearances in the young Everton striker’s direction.

The England goalkeeper’s distribution was erratic at best but his shot-stopping could not be faulted when Liverpool created the only clear chance of a frenetic first half. Everton’s shape was occasionally ragged and the space between their central defenders and midfielders would have been manna from heaven for Roberto Firmino. Unfortunately for Klopp his influential Brazilian was fit enough for only the final 27 minutes from the bench having injured an ankle at Manchester United last Sunday.

A mistake by Morgan Schneiderlin presented Liverpool with their first opening. His failure to control a short pass enabled Fabinho to release Salah with a perfectly weighted pass. Salah sprinted in from the right, Pickford stood his ground and made a fine stop to his right. Coleman threw himself in the way of Jordan Henderson’s shot from the rebound and Everton escaped.

The Republic of Ireland captain was alert to stop Salah latching on to a superb ball over the Everton defence by Henderson as Liverpool, with their breathtaking speed and numbers on the break, carried the greater threat.An end product, a touch of composure and quality on the ball were lacking in both teams, however. This was another in the lengthy list of Merseyside derbies that resembled a scrap more than a spectacle.

Alisson was forced into his first save of the game early in an improved second half when Calvert-Lewin met Digne’s corner with a glancing header. Pickford, his clearances sailing out of play or on to a Liverpool player’s head with alarming regularity, saved comfortably from a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick.

Salah was given another clear run at Pickford’s goal when Joël Matip ghosted beyond Schneiderlin and put the forward through via a deflection off Kurt Zouma. Liverpool’s leading marksman seemed poised to convert when Keane launched himself into an excellent and vital interception. Another last-ditch tackle, this time from Digne, denied Fabinho as the Brazilian midfielder was about to bury a Virgil Van Dijk header across goal at close range.

With Firmino and James Milner entering the fray courtesy of a double substitution by Klopp, who withdrew the subdued Georginio Wijnaldum and Origi respectively, the visitors had several openings to punish Everton on the counter-attack late on but failed to capitalise. Matip and Van Dijk were both wayward with presentable headers.

The hosts, too, had their glimmers of opportunity in a more open second half with Richarlison improving their approach down the right. Bernard was millimetres away from connecting with the winger’s low cross and was also foiled by a fine Van Dijk tackle as he sought to weave his way into the area. Klopp’s team could not repeat their habit of punishing Everton at the frantic end this time and it is advantage Manchester City, albeit a slim one.

Copyright - The Guardian

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