Liverpool Fan: Everton Happier Of Two In Underwhelming 'Friendly Derby'
Merseyside Police. Liverpool City Council. Apart from Everton, who kept the clean sheet that they wanted and walked away with the point that they set out for, you’d imagine that those two organisations would be the only people remotely satisfied with Saturday’s underwhelming iteration of the ‘friendly derby’.
Despite the title that was given to the game years ago - and none of us are entirely sure where it came from - the council and the police had spent the last couple of weeks appealing to the higher authorities (Sky basically) to have the kick off time pushed back from 5.30pm as such a late start would mean that we fans, we uncontrollable fans, would spend the entire day drinking and be in such a bloodthirsty rage by early evening that the streets of Walton would be awash with carnage. Despite the fact that the nature of the two club’s fan-bases, the nature of the city, the reason the game was given the name, is that all Liverpudlians know Evertonians. They’re mates, they’re family. In my case, we’re talking my wife and youngest son. We may not agree on football but we can do it in a civil manner, thanks.
Stanley Park (it’s the big bit of grass separating the stadiums for you non-locals) was lined with so many police vans that an appearance by ISIS seemed expected.
They needn’t have bothered. The usual blood and thunder of the Merseyside Derby was replaced by caution, by the timid, wary approach of two teams who seemed more concerned with not losing than trying to win.
Everton’s approach is understandable; despite the obvious talent of their manager and the quality in their squad, it’s not been their greatest season. A loss at home to the old enemy might have been a step too far for them to bear. So they sacrificed creativity for solidity. That their only effort on goal came in the 86th minute, courtesy of an injection of unpredictability in the shape of Ross Barkley, spoke volumes.
Liverpool had no such excuses. We started with all our creative players on the pitch plus the added wonder of a wild card in the shape of Jordon Ibe. Lucas and Henderson as our base? Tick. Gerrard playing up front? Tick. Sterling and Coutinho to torture the Everton back four? Tick. The threat of Daniel Sturridge on the bench? Big, big tick.
None of it quite worked. Everything was too slow, the build up play was ponderous, a magnificently marshaled Everton rear guard was constantly able to get a line of six along the eighteen yard box every time that we broke. It was like playing Chelsea and once again we were unable to pick their defence apart. One touch too many, one pass too many, never quite sharp enough. The best chance to win the game - for either side - was Ibe’s mesmerising waltz through the blue midfield ranks before thundering an improbable shot against the upright. Nobody saw it coming. An inch to the right and we’re talking goal of the season contender.
We looked leggy, looked slow. Perhaps the exertions of Wednesday night, the bombardment, the speed, had taken its toll. Sharpness was missing. None of this helped by the loss of Lucas after quarter of an hour. Lucas Leiva has become the very definition of the player that you only notice when he’s not there. He’s fundamental as the platform that we build on. Joe Allen, currently a whipping boy for a lot of fans, wasn’t as bad as Twitter will tell you but he’s not Lucas. He doesn’t command.
Gerrard was sadly ineffectual. His last derby not marked with the glory that anybody - not least Sky’s advertising department - hoped for. Sturridge, when he entered, looked rusty - he’s not going to hit the ground as the finished article, first game goal notwithstanding. Coutinho felt the effects of a Besic tackle and left the competition early, Sterling was tired and replaced by Lambert who also didn’t achieve the heroics that he probably hoped. There were no scripts written here, no dreams, no legends built, no parting shots, just a very tired, very dull game of football that couldn’t have been any fun for the neutrals at all.
Spurs next then. A win needed to keep in touch with the top four. Saturday is regarded as two points dropped.