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Questionable subs, dominant Can & ineffective Gerrard – 5 Talking points from Merseyside derby stalemate

Brendan Rodgers’ Reds were held to a frustrating goalless draw by a negative Everton side at Goodison Park, and Ben Twelves picks a number of discussions topics from the grudge match.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, February 6, 2015: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia is fouled by Everton's James McCarthy, who was shown a yellow card for the challenge, during the Premier League match at Goodison Park, the 224th Merseyside Derby. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The much anticipated derby clash failed to live up to expectations at a freezing cold Goodison Park, but it was Liverpool who came closest to claiming all three points in the rival match.

Surprise selection Jordon Ibe was the man who almost made himself an instant Kop hero with a rasping effort, but his sweetly struck shot from the edge of the box following an excellent run crashed agonisingly back off the upright with Joel Robles beaten in the Gwladys Street net.

Roberto Martinez’s side had set their stall out making themselves hard to beat, and it was left to Rodgers’ men to find the breakthrough in the 224th all-Merseyside affair, but clear cut chances were in short supply as both teams settled for a point.

The result keeps Liverpool on the fringes on the top four battle if nothing else and here are the discussion points from the no-score draw.


No dream derby farewell for Gerrard

Much of the attention pre-match centred around the Reds’ legendary captain in his final derby appearance, but the 34-year-old failed to live up to the pre-match anticipation.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, February 6, 2015: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard leads his side out for his last ever Merseyside Derby during the Premier League match against Everton at Goodison Park, the 224th Merseyside Derby. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In stark contrast to bygone years, Gerrard was sadly a passenger throughout having next to no impact on any of Liverpool’s play – as he made the second least amount of passes of outfield players who played the full match – and while already operating in little space due to the compact Everton set-up, the captain struggled to find a way to impose himself.

A decent effort from a first half free-kick that was tipped over by Robles and a spectacular deflected overhead kick was as good as it got for the Kop legend and Gerrard’s presence in the attack caused the home side few problems – a real sign of the times.

Rodgers should have withdrawn the skipper – with pace and energy needed – but frustratingly passed up the opportunity, instead opting to take off Raheem Sterling and bring on Rickie Lambert.


Exciting and positive performance from Jordon Ibe

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, February 6, 2015: Liverpool's Jordon Ibe in action against Everton during the Premier League match at Goodison Park, the 224th Merseyside Derby. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A surprise but welcome selection in the starting XI, Ibe produced an extremely positive performance on his first Premier League start since May 2013.

Entering the side for Lazar Markovic at right-wing back, the 19-year-old put in a confident and disciplined display with his attacking ambition and bravery commendable in a mentally testing fixture, and the teenager so nearly marked the occasion with what would have been a goal of the season contender.

The former-Wycombe man never hid in the tense affair – with his positivity and powerful, driving runs at Brian Oviedo causing the step-in left back a number of problems all afternoon – and defensively, Ibe was extremely disciplined in his duties to provide protection to the excellent again Emre Can behind him.

Ibe showed his capability and readiness for more regular action, and should Markovic continue to need an extended rest after a gruelling recent schedule, there should be no hesitancy in calling on the youngster again.


Emre Can continues excellent form

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, February 6, 2015: Everton's Romelu Lukaku in action with Liverpool's Emre Can during the Premier League match at Goodison Park, the 224th Merseyside Derby. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The stylish German put in another impressive display as he continues to win plaudits for his assured and dominant performances in the new and improved Reds backline.

Full of confidence from an outstanding showing in midweek at Bolton, Can picked up from where he left off alongside Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho, and the Germany under-21 international dealt comfortably with all that came his way – winning all 5 of 5 tackles – as well as contributing to play from the back – completing 87% of his passes – and his customary marauding forward dribbles which were seen five times too.

The 21-year-old – arguably the Reds man of the match on the afternoon – has really shown his obvious quality in recent fixtures and he has made the right centre-back position his own, establishing himself now firmly as a first choice selection in the starting XI.


Quiet but effective display from Joe Allen

After being thrown on for the injured Lucas Leiva after just 16 minutes, the Welsh midfielder did a quietly effective job in the heat of the midfield battle alongside Jordan Henderson.

Despite being muscled off the ball on occasions, Allen kept things simple and provided a tidy outlet in possession – completing 91.2% of 68 passes – linking play well at times, and the Wales international was more of the calming figure of old – which hasn’t been seen enough this season – in a slightly deeper role than his energetic midfield partner.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 17, 2014: Liverpool's Joe Allen in action against Southampton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Though lacking the natural physical attributes to break up opposition play as readily as the man he replaced, the 24-year-old – who made only one less tackle and interception than Can who lead the way with 5 and 3 for the Reds – did a disciplined if unspectacular job for Rodgers’ side, taking the sting out of potentially dangerous situations well with his intelligence on the ball and willingness to compete.

While not naturally suited to the position, the diminutive ball-player deserves praise for coming in and dealing with the occasion well.


Questionable in-game management from Rodgers

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, February 6, 2015: Liverpool's physiotherapist Chris Morgan gives manager Brendan Rodgers an update after Daniel Sturridge leaves the substitute bench down the tunnel against Everton during the Premier League match at Goodison Park, the 224th Merseyside Derby. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was a game that was in desperate need for a spark from somewhere to kick the occasion into life, but the trigger didn’t come from the Liverpool boss who made some debatable decisions.

Though forced into changes with Lucas’ early exit and Coutinho picking up a knock which saw the Brazilian magician make way – much to the relief of the home fans – Rodgers’ decision to withdraw the final bit of attacking midfield sharpness in Raheem Sterling and replace the 20-year-old with the immobile Rickie Lambert was a poor move.

Equally as baffling was the choice to leave Gerrard on for the 90 minutes – with the captain offering nothing – instead of replacing him with the pacey and penetrative Markovic an option from the bench, and the decisions proved counter-productive as Everton then found it easier to attack the Reds with all high-pressing sapped in the legless attacked created.

Those choices – as well as the decision to name an overly strong team for the FA Cup replay at Bolton in midweek – undoubtedly contributed to Liverpool heading back to Anfield with one point to show for rather than three. The top four is looking increasingly unlikely as a result.

There’s little time to rest for Liverpool who now have to regroup and recover quickly ahead of the arrival of in-form Tottenham for a match which has now become a must win game following the weekend’s results.

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