Whatever way you look at it, Liverpool should not have been hanging onto a 1-0 lead when Phil Jagielka provided a bolt from the blue to ensure a dramatic equaliser for Everton at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.
Steven Gerrard’s 65th minute free-kick was late in coming, but crucially Liverpool had the first goal, forcing Everton to attack and take more risks at the back.
There were chances and ample time for Liverpool to put the game way beyond their local rivals but when Jagielka fired home in front of the Kop in injury time, Anfield fell silent.
It was, as Paul Wilson of The Guardian describes, a hugely frustrating and ultimately disappointing kick in the teeth for Brendan Rodgers’ side. He writes of Jagielka’s late equaliser:
That was a twist in the tail a plodding script hardly merited. Liverpool were deserving of a win on the basis that Everton had hardly produced an attack of note, yet they switched off a few seconds too early in assuming Jagielka would recycle Dejan Lovren’s clearing header by conventional means.
Shortly after Gerrard had opened the scoring, Mario Balotelli had a glorious opportunity to kill the game off, getting onto the end of a Raheem Sterling cross only the inexplicably fire over via the crossbar when it looked easier to score.
That would have killed the game off, but Liverpool’s lack of ammunition in front of goal was what was punished by the Toffees late on — a criticism of Balotelli Ian Herbert of the Independent is more than happy to make:
More hot air than hot finishing. The video footage which surfaced this week of Mario Balotelli singing Liverpool chants with a mouthful of helium somehow epitomised what he tends to bring to a club.
Balotelli will never be conventional of course. The unpredictability is part of the attraction. But Liverpool’s aims are high. They will need materially more from him than flashes of promise. The disappointment washing up the Anfield Road last night carried a sharp reminder of that.
As some had predicted prior to the game though, the form book was well and truly thrown out of the window by Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who put the dreariness of last Saturday’s defeat at West Ham behind him and recaptured the imagination that comes with derby games.
It was a stirling performance from the 34-year-old as he cupped his ears upon scoring as if to defy his critics.
Henry Winter of The Telegraph picked up on Gerrard’s sizeable contribution to the Reds’ cause:
Henderson may mature into Liverpool’s captain one day but Gerrard’s leadership is vital now. He was demanding the right standards, shouting at Manquillo when the right-back was out of position. It is Gerrard’s reading of the game that Rodgers also admires. He covered at centre-back when Martin Skrtel pushed up. He anticipated Lukaku’s pass towards Naismith, nipping in, nicking the ball and releasing Lallana first time. He picked off a Stones’ pass to McGeady, and dispossessed Besic, Lukaku and Naismith.
And he took his goal well. Some finish. Gerrard himself is far from finished.
All in all, it was another two points squandered as Liverpool reached the sixth game of the league campaign still with only two wins to their name, three defeats and this one draw.
Concern is rightfully high amongst both Merseyside clubs at the moment, but Liverpool will certainly be welcoming the imminent return of Daniel Sturridge from injury.
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