07 February 2015

Liverpool 0-0 Everton

0-0 at Goodison was unexpected. The last time this fixture ended scoreless was April 2000, 17 Goodison derbies ago. The Anfield derbies tend to be more closely contested, these tend to be vastly more open, at least over the last five years. Because, you know, Everton usually tries to attack at home.

Credit where due and all that. Everton's front three pressed well, upsetting Liverpool's attacks at the base, especially after Lucas went off. And Everton defended in depth, blocking seven of Liverpool's 17 shots, making 29 defensive third clearances. But it was still strange to see Everton play for the 0-0. And they got that 0-0, a result that's far more damaging to Liverpool than Everton.

Injuries made a massive difference to Liverpool. Sturridge wasn't fit enough to start. Neither were Lallana nor Markovic, the former left out entirely, the latter on the bench and replaced by Ibe in the XI. Lucas had to go off after 16 minutes, replaced by Joe Allen – which made it easier for Everton to press Liverpool's midfield and defense, Liverpool missing his positioning, short passing, and ability on the ball far more than his defense. And Coutinho, struggling with a knee problem thanks to one of Everton's many "agricultural" tackles, made way for Sturridge in the 56th, Liverpool finally bringing on its goalscorer but removing its best creator. Michael Caley's Expected Goals chart adequately summarizes the difference that made.

Narratives made a massive difference to Liverpool. You cannot play with passengers in a Merseyside Derby and, as much as it hurts to write, Steven Gerrard was a passenger for long stretches. Yes, he also had two of Liverpool's best chances: a goal-bound acrobatic effort deflected over by Naismith in the 54th and a side-footed shot narrowly wide in the 88th. Otherwise, he did little, slowing down Liverpool attacks and creating just one chance. Liverpool didn't even get the benefit of his set play delivery, wasting the few opportunities he had. He's the best player I've ever seen in a Liverpool shirt, but Liverpool are simply a better side without Gerrard these days. Especially a Steven Gerrard who played 90 minutes just three days ago. Haven't we learned that you play Gerrard in one match a week, not two? Please? And there's no explanation for bringing Rickie Lambert on as the final substitute – for Sterling no less – other than "sentiment." There's no room for sentiment in football. This was a crucial match in Liverpool's quest for fourth place, not a testimonial.

Liverpool took 17 shots, dominated possession, but you can tear through the concrete opportunities in a single line: Ibe's cannon off the post in the 27th minute, the two aforementioned Gerrard efforts, a close-range chance for Sturridge somehow blocked by Jagielka in the 70th. Everton's single line is even shorter: an 87th minute chance for Coleman miraculously saved by Mignolet.

At least Liverpool's defense is light years better than it was the last time these two sides met. Sure, Everton didn't really try to attack – I've never seen Everton so hesitant to attack in a Goodison derby – and they didn't register their first shot on target until that 87th-minute effort. But an awful lot of credit goes to how Can, Skrtel, and Sakho dealt with Lukaku, Naismith, and Mirallas as well.

It's now been 870 minutes since Liverpool last conceded an open play goal in any competition. And it's been 390 minutes since Liverpool last conceded any type of goal in the Premier League. That remains impressive, no matter the opposition. The previous long without conceding under Rodgers was 272 minutes, at the start of last season. The last time Liverpool kept four consecutive league clean sheets was January-February 2011, the beginning of Dalglish's caretaker stint, against Wolves, Fulham, Stoke, and Chelsea.

That's impressive, and it's because of both Everton's desired tactics and Liverpool's defending.

But it led to a fairly unwatchable match, especially in the second half, where neither side did much of anything going forward. And while we can be pleased with more evidence of Liverpool's defensive improvement, and especially pleased with Ibe and Can's efforts on Liverpool's right, we're yet again ruing Liverpool's impotence in the final third. Stop me if you've heard that one before.

Impotence that has, yet again, made Liverpool's quest for fourth that much more difficult.


Biggestfandownunder said...

And there's no explanation for bringing Rickie Lambert on as the final substitute – for Sterling no less – other than "sentiment."

Disagree, mate.

You bring on a striker off your bench when you're looking for a goal.

Sterling was shattered, and Spurs are around the corner, and Gerrard behind two strikers would give Everton something new to think about.

Didn't work ... football doesn't always work out the way you hope. Funn that.

Anonymous said...

Balotelli and Sturridge up top.

Sterlin coutinho in behind them

That needs to happen. Balotelli scored at Man City,Inter, AC Milan... He can score for us... He's scored more often than Sterling for number of appearances. This is getting ridiculous. Sterling been with Liverpool for 4 years, scored a few goals... Balotelli scored one goal in a few months and is being SINGLED OUT by Rodger.

We will NEVER win a trophy with BR in charge. You have Balotelli and Sturridge.... why on Earth would you not play them!?

Anonymous said...

We are a roster of Sterling, Balotelli, Sturridge, Borini, Lambert...

WHY are we only PLAYING ONE UP TOP!?
It is maddening to watch us try to clear the ball out to someone up top to relieve pressure on our defense and the only ones up top are guys the size of 14 yr olds. Sterling, Coutinho...THEY CAN'T HOLD UP PLAY! How do you relieve the pressure on defense if you can't even hold up the ball for a few seconds and win ANY header. How do you play with two little boys up top who can NEVER win headers? You have lambert, balotelli, sturridge. ONE OF THEM HAS TO START! Take off Henderson, we have seen how worthless he is. He will never be anything worth remembering 10 years from now. He will have no songs sung of him 20 years down the road.

Balotelli is SO young. Give the guy a chance up top with Sturridge and Sterling. It is guaranteed goals.

Gerrard HATES brendan rodgers, all the talk around when Gerrard leaving centered on how silly Gerrard thinks tiki-taka football was.. Gerrard hated it when he brought in Joe Allen.

Joe Allen is RUBBISH!

If you couldn't start for chelsea, man utd, arsenal, man city, why the hell are you playing for us!?

Nasty Nate, Address the real problem.

Rodgers is out the door in two years. Everyone knows it. He didn't even fight for Gerrard to stay. He cares more about re-signing Joe Allen than he did Gerrard.

We have ONE STRIKER in Sturridge who is a STRIKER who Rodgers will play.

Borini is shit
Lambert is shit

Balotelli is a legend but rodgers doesn't like him... big political background stuff going on between rodgers and board.

So if Sturridge goes down we are left with a half boy half man Sterling as our target man in hopes of making Champs league?

Nate, if given the chance, tell me which 5 players you think City or Chelsea would sign from Liverpool tomorrow.

Name your five!

Biggestfandownunder said...

Oh, geez! Hope my first comment didn't encourage the above two mad-hatter anonymous comments. Wow, I'm stunned at the level of crazy in the second comment.

Gerrard hates BR. Bahahaha!

Nate, I should again add how much I enjoy your write ups, mate. Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Great write-up as always Nate.

It was a frustrating match to watch. Especially that second half. Like you said, you can't play with passengers in a Merseyside Derby. You can't play with passengers in any Prem match really. SG was worse than a passenger. He was getting in the way of out attacking play. Out on his feet. Those two shots were not much either. The overhead shot looked impressive but would have gone straight to the keeper for an easy as pie save. The wide side of the foot shot was pretty far off target considering it was a side of the foot shot. They were both terribly weak shots in the end. BR needed to make that sub. It wasn't a testimonial. SG can only play once a week, max. Even then it shouldn't be for a full 90. Hate to say it, but it is time.

Lukaku, Mirallas and Naismith were easily handled by our back line. And Migs made that one very good save to keep us in the match. The D is much better with 3 good CB's, 2 of which are ball-players. AWOL Loveren, no DM and the coaches insistence that everyone have the courage to get on the ball was the perfect storm for doing Mig's head in. He's got his confidence and shot-stopping back, playing well, and dealing with high balls pretty well. Never listen to the experts opinions that once a keeper loses his confidence he never gets it back. BS.

Lucas going off was a big miss. He settles the team down, breaks up attacks, always provides an outlet pass for the CB's and knits play together better than anyone else we have to play that role.

Sterling had a few half chances where he would have been better advised to cut the ball back to our guys attacking the goal. Ibe had that post shot and the close in attempt a few yards out where Joel closed him down and made a good stop. He might have been able to score if he faked the shot, dragged the ball back and lifted it over the keeper. Moreno had a chance on a cutback that would have been a good scoring opportunity if he could use his right foot.

One goal would have rescued the 3 points. Rendered that much more difficult playing with 10 men. 41 points would have put us within 3 points and touching distance of United in 4th place. As it is, 39 points and 5 out of 4th with the fixture congestion ahead over the next 7 games feels like we have a mountain to climb.

Spurs looked good on Saturday in their demolition of the Arsenal. Sure to be a supremely difficult challenge on Tuesday. Poch. has those guys in top fitness condition. They can all run all day long for the full 90 minutes. Would expect BR to make the right call from here on out.

Anonymous said...

Just to balance out the crazy comment combo above.. I LOVE YOU NATE. BUT NOT MORE THAN YOUR ARTIKLES ON OYB.
First place on the web that i check out for the match reviews is OYB.
Thanks for writing regularly.