07 April 2018

Liverpool 0-0 Everton


Sam Allardyce's master plan almost worked. Hold onto your butts for 75 minutes, try for 15. Make it ugly, made even uglier by the drenched conditions.

And if Everton weren't pretty terrible, they'd have pulled it off.

Once again, Everton will not get a better chance to end their eight-years-plus Merseyside Derby voodoo. Clyne made his first start of the season. Ragnar Klavan played left-back. Gini Wijnaldum played as the holding midfielder, ostensibly in preparation for Can injured and Henderson suspended against City. Ings made his first start under Klopp, on the right wing. Solanke started up front. Four players who'd probably start were out injured, while Firmino and Oxlade-Chamberlain were on the bench. Liverpool had three kids never involved in a first-team squad before – Conor Masterson, Curtis Jones, and Rafa Camacho – as other substitutes. Everyone was obviously far more worried about Manchester City on Tuesday, and rightfully so.

Which maybe says something about how far the Merseyside Derby has fallen, but probably says more about how important the Champions League is.

Yet the sum of Sam Allardyce's ambitions is "hold onto your butts for 75 minutes and then try to win for just 15." And this is what you usually get from that.

So, yeah, Liverpool could have been ahead by the time Everton discovered ambition. Solanke won't have a better chance to score this season than he did in the 16th minute, only to shoot straight at Pickford. Pickford also denied Milner's rasping wide-box effort ten or so minutes later. Wijnaldum, Mané, and Oxlade-Chamberlain blasted squirming efforts over from distance. Solanke headed another decent chance wide and had a couple of shots blocked.

Liverpool weren't bad, but Liverpool were very much unfamiliar – both the XI and the players in individual attacking roles. It was rainy and it was wet and the ball was doing dumb things and we all care a lot more about City on Tuesday. And Everton were basically happy to soak it all up and hope for the best later.

And Everton almost got the best later. Liverpool did slow down. Everton did come forward. Everton did take advantage of Henderson's energy falling off a cliff, of Solanke's inability to hold the ball up literally at all, of Clyne's first start of the season, of Klavan at left back. Tosun nearly got on the end of Baines' cross after he burst into the box past Clyne. Walcott's cross around Klavan found Tosun at the back post, over Clyne, his shot-slash-knockdown rarely missing Coleman. Calvert-Lewin blasted over when wide open in the box. All in the last 15 minutes.

Had Everton discovered this ambition earlier, they probably would have won. And probably would have deserved to do so. But, as Everton have learned over the last few months, this is what you get with Sam Allardyce. Enjoy the ride.

We discovered Solanke and Ings can't quite replace Firmino and Salah. Wijnaldum did some decent things as the deepest midfielder, but I'm very worried about what he'll do in that role on Tuesday. The James Milner Renaissance remains impressive, Liverpool's best player today. We remembered that Nat Clyne is actually a good footballer, doing well considering how long he's been out. Karius made a nice save and a couple of nice claims.

All that really matters is that Liverpool didn't lose and no one else got injured unless we're counting Moreno in the warm-ups. Sure, top 4 gets a little hairier if Chelsea win their games; the gap will be five points if they win tomorrow and their game-in-hand in a week-and-a-half. But it's still a five-point gap.

And Everton still haven't won a Merseyside Derby since Roy Hodgson was Liverpool manager.

2,729 days ago.

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