Everton vs. Liverpool: 5 Takeaways from a Fiery 2-2 Draw
Merseyside derbies seldom disappoint, and this was no exception. Though every goal was scored in the first half, they flew in during a breathtaking 21-minute period when the game's frantic pace took its toll on both defences.
This was also a feisty match that saw several yellow cards produced and refereeing decisions questioned. Liverpool fans will not be able to get Luis Suarez's disallowed goal in stoppage time out of their minds for days.
It does such a great match a disservice to condense it so, but here are five things we can take away from another thrilling Merseyside derby.
Liverpool's Youngsters Weren't Ready for the Derby
Brendan Rodgers fielded three teenagers in one of the harshest atmospheres in football. Unsurprisingly, each had his problems and none had a good game.
Andre Wisdom, in fairness, was only started out of necessity. Automatic first choice Glen Johnson is out with an unremarkable injury, and Martin Kelly will be out until March with a torn ACL. But until Rodgers moved him forward at the start of the second half, Wisdom was having a terrible time with Everton's forwards.
Suso and Raheem Sterling were not much better. The former never really got into the game, while the latter was tormented by Leighton Baines until he was moved to the left. He did not perform much better there.
Overall, Rodgers' teenagers seemed a bit overawed by and not really up for the occasion—a problem he will have to deal with in big games going forward.
Losing Kevin Mirallas Hurt Everton Badly
One of the main reasons why Everton carved Liverpool up in the first half was the outstanding play of Kevin Mirallas working against Andre Wisdom on the left wing.
His crisp passing, devastating movement and imposing physical presence were essential components of Everton's attack, and Mirallas assisted Steven Naismith's equalizer with a deft touch, great turn and pinpoint pass.
While Magaye Gueye was serviceable after coming on at the start of the second half, the Toffees lacked the spark and dynamism that the superb Mirallas gave them. David Moyes can only hope that the Belgian's injury is not severe.
Brendan Rodgers Is an Excellent Tactician
It was plain to see during the latter stages of the first half that Liverpool were being overrun. There was no defensive organization or ability to retain the ball for any length of time—in short, the Reds needed the half to end.
A bold move needed to be made, and Brendan Rodgers made it. The introductions of Jonjo Shelvey and Seb Coates for Suso and Nuri Sahin, respectively, allowed Liverpool to play with a three-man back line that gave underperforming players different roles to play and the substitutes chances to shine.
Shelvey added a certain assuredness and dynamism to the midfield that had been missing, while Coates made a couple crucial stops. Without these changes, Everton would certainly have scored more goals.
Luis Suarez Is Divisive but Dangerous
On a day when Liverpool struggled to break through Everton's fervent pressing and create good chances on the ground, Luis Suarez proved again that he is among the most threatening forwards in the Premier League.
There are few players in the world who can turn quicker, and Suarez's touch-and-swivel move caught Everton's defenders in poor positions several times.
More importantly, though, Suarez always pops up in the right positions at the right times. He was directly involved in both of Liverpool's goals, and the third that should have been the winner. Suarez's shot that deflected off Leighton Baines opened the scoring, while excellent positioning and movement allowed him to head in one free kick and then another that was called back.
Of course, he does infuriate all non-Liverpool fans with the softness that sometimes creeps into his game (and his mocking celebration right at the David Moyes' feet will not cool any animosity), but Suarez is arguably the Reds' most important player.
Liverpool Were Robbed of a Rightful Win
After steadily improving throughout the second half, few outside of Goodison Park would deny that Liverpool deserved three points if circumstance handed it to them.
It did, but the Reds were denied the stoppage-time goal that would have handed them a signature victory.
As Steven Gerrard whipped in a free kick that was the last real chance of the game, Luis Suarez typically got into an advantageous position behind the Everton defence and poked home what should have been the winner.
Amazingly, Suarez was judged to be offside when he was not even close to being past the last defender. For once, I cannot argue with his and his teammates' histrionic arguing with the referees. Liverpool will have to look at this match as two points lost, while Everton will see it as one point gained.