Everton 1 - 1 LiverpoolAn unseasonably warm day, Everton going into a derby with many neutrals expecting an Everton win, and Martin Atkinson officiating - as we approached kick off things were horrible reminiscent of THAT Merseyside derby back in 2011. Thankfully the game didn't end up that way, though at full time you felt frustrated that we couldn't convert our second half dominance into victory.
We went off the beaten track slightly to refresh our palates as our usual watering hole was particularly busy. Further up County Road we found a sports bar called Players which was good and not overly busy. We relaxed there for a while, getting the team news in the pub - no Stones. No Coleman. As you were from the team that beat West Bromwich Albion. We trotted on to Goodison Park in beautiful sunshine. "Come on Everton. We can do this." I muttered to myself over and over again on the way. We were in the ground well in time for kick off and the teams came out. Goodison roared (and then booed for Martin Atkinson) and we were soon underway. Most in confident mood, attacking the Park End in the first half.
It was Liverpool who began the better team, getting a little bit of joy down the flanks with Jagielka and Funes Mori having to be at their last-ditch best at times to keep them out. Everton remained in the game however and if not for two smart saves from Mignolet, first from Naismith and then from McCarthy, we may have edged ahead first. Alas this wasn't to be as Liverpool went a goal ahead on 41 minutes when Danny Ings headed in quite easily from what was Liverpool's umpteenth corner kick.
Already Liverpool began to waste time and it felt for all the world like we were to go in a goal down though awful defending by Martin Skrtel and Emre Cann presented an opportunity for Romelu Lukaku who didn't mess around in despatching the ball into the corner of the net. A crucial goal ahead of the break and we went in at half time all square.
The goal provided the catalyst for us to really kick on in the second half, of which we were dominant throughout. I was impressed with how we went about trying to force the game up until around the 70 minute mark at which point we seemed to run out of ideas as the game got very scrappy. The closest we came was probably when Ross Barkley ran at goal and, using his defender as a shield to block Mignolet's view, curled the ball just the wrong side of the post. Tyias Browning came agonisingly close with a header which flicked off the head of Sakho and over the bar, whilst Lukaku slammed a decent chance straight at Mignolet. There were countless balls in and around their penalty area which just didn't quite drop for us and on another day Lady Luck may have shined upon us. Playing with a different referee may also have heralded a red card for Lucas after he was booked for only one of three cynical fouls. He was lucky to remain on the pitch. Some of the decisions from Atkinson were very questionable, the Lucas one the most so.
An entertaining game then and the spoils shared in, unbelievably, the sixth draw out of the last seven Merseyside derby matches. We left the game frustrated that we didn't beat a pitifully poor Liverpool team, so poor in fact that the owners have tonight sacked Brendon Rodgers from his position as Manager. One thing we can honestly say after the game though is - we are better than them.
I get married next weekend and a win would have been just the perfect wedding gift but it wasn't to be. I thought I was clever getting married during the international break so as not to miss any Everton fixtures, though I didn't consider the games I would then miss on honeymoon. Only Manchester United, Arsenal and Norwich City in the Capital One Cup!
So long Blues. Things are looking up.
Howard: Was rash at times in the first half but generally sound. Made a few good catches in the second period. 6
Galloway: It's fantastic to see the energy and enthusiasm shown by both Brendan Galloway and Tyias Browning. A fine derby debut for Brendan who did not look out of place or overawed by the occasion whatsoever. 7
Jagielka: Solid. Made sure they didn't get behind us. 8
Funes Mori: I'm pretty impressed with him so far. I like his no-nonsense style at times and there's much more to come from him. Not bad at all given the very short time he has been at the club. 8
Browning: I was a little worried about him in the lead up to the game as he is not a natural right back, though he produced perhaps his best game yet for us. Like Galloway - not overawed by the occasion at all. 7
Barry: Was exceptional. I was thinking about how we could maybe get Gibson on the pitch to provide more forward and probing passes but he or McCarthy just could not be sacrificed. Had an excellent game. 8
McCarthy: Similarly, was everywhere and produced several tackles. Is certainly the player you want in the trenches for a Merseyside derby. 8
Deulofeu: Didn't get into the game. Ste pointed out before the game that he would be better served from the bench as an impact substitute. I didn't agree at the time, though in hindsight that may have been a better call than playing him from the start. 5
Naismith: Will feel he should have scored with his header but he had a game perhaps low on quality but high on industry. 6
Barkley: Did well. Always busy and came so close to winning the game for us. Was set back by playing on a yellow card for most of the game after he got booked for trying to get the ball back from Cann. 7
Lukaku: My man of the match. He was unplayable at times and being at his powerful best they didn't really have an answer to him in the main. I like that he stood up to Sakho and refused to be bullied.
Lennon (for Deulofeu): Caused more problems than Deulofeu and got some joy down their left side. May be involved from the start against Manchester United. 7
Kone (for Naismith): Got involved. Arguably had he have been introduced sooner it may have contributed towards a precious goal, but perhaps Naismith's discipline was more required a that stage. 7