The media felt the Merseyside derby spectacle and Liverpool’s performance suffered without fans being present, showing why the impending title win will be “all the greater.”
The Reds did not make the slick, firing-on-all-cylinders restart hoped for at Goodison Park but edged one point closer to title glory.
It was a scrappy, disjointed affair which lacked the usual tempo and quality of a typical derby clash, with Jurgen Klopp’s side understandably rusty after the prolonged pause.
The wait to finally secure the trophy runs on, but just five more points are required to end the 30-year wait.
Here’s all the key analysis from the media after the stalemate.
Reporters reflected on the Premier League’s new normal and how it makes Liverpool’s impending title win an even bigger success…
The BBC’s Phil McNulty described it as a “very sobering” experience, with the occasion “just not the same”:
“It just was not the same—nor should it be in the current global crisis but this was a game, an occasion, when the adjustment to life without fans for the time being was brought into its sharpest relief yet.
“As an occasion, this was a very sobering acquaintance with how Premier League football will be for now, purely because this was so far removed from what was normal before coronavirus brought a halt to the season in March and from what a Merseyside derby usually inflicts on the senses.”
ESPN’s Mark Ogden thought that the absence of a crowd and thus no passion pouring onto the pitch from the stands made for a more cagey and less nervy affair:
“With a typical derby crowd, and the atmosphere that comes with it, we may have ended up with a winner. But when each team had momentum, there was no backing from the stands and dominance quickly faded away.
“That is an unfortunate consequence of football behind closed doors—which is essential right now—but it is right when fans claim the game will not be the same until they are allowed inside stadiums once again.”
“It may not bother many of his contemporaries, but Klopp needs a crowd. They feed off each other, they revel in the frenzy.
“There were still a few lively tackles—particularly when Richarlison was around, having given Liverpool and Virgil van Dijk a little lip in the build-up—and Liverpool are clearly the better team, but seeing them like this brought home the club Klopp has created, the clever way he has captured that wonderful passion and turned it to his advantage.”
The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe felt that even the respective lineups highlighted the behind-closed-doors setup allowing for some surprise selections:
“Even the lineups seemed a nod to the closed-doors policy.
Writing for the Guardian, Jonathan Wilson expressed an element of disappointment in how the Reds are unlikely to claim the title in the same fashion they all but won it which will make for an anti-climactic end to a special season:
“The question is not whether they will win the title as whether they can finish it off in a style befitting the first three-quarters of the season.
“Perhaps fans could have sustained a two-month-long party; without them, the danger is that this comes to feel a very long six weeks for Liverpool, protracted bathos at the end of what should be remembered as one of their great seasons.”
Meanwhile, Samuel stated this ‘asterisk title’ will only highlight the extraordinary achievement the Reds pulled off in all-but-winning it before any lockdown complications could come into play:
“Yet once inside it was the same old Project Restart. And that’s why there will be an asterisk.
“Not because Liverpool‘s achievement, once complete, will be devalued—but because this is a weird little denouement, and it should be noted as such. Indeed, Klopp and Liverpool‘s achievement is all the greater because they have managed to skirt the danger this conclusion presents.”
Liverpool’s comeback performance received mixed reviews from members of the media…
The Mirror’s Alex Milne was one of many journalists to assess that the Reds brought unimpressive pre-lockdown form into the restart and are still missing their “wow factor”:
“It was another far-from-vintage performance from the Reds at Goodison Park, who just seem to have a lost a bit of their ‘wow’ factor in their last few games.
“It is worth remembering that they were defeated in four of their last six matches before lockdown, and there is a danger that a bit of gloss is being taken off their still undoubtedly superb campaign.”
“It wasn’t just Robertson’s individual abilities that were missing, rather it was that tandem between him and Trent Alexander-Arnold and all the variety it contains.
“When that’s in place, Liverpool just have a greater range and their ability to probe weaknesses feels much more extensive. Nobody in the Premier League switches the play and changes the point of attack as well as they do and having that Alexander-Arnold/Robertson axis is the key to that, making the team much more unpredictable and—ultimately—far more dangerous.”
Writing for Goal, Neil Jones played down suggestions of the Reds continuing their ‘wobble’, insisting that it was just more of the same from recent Goodison Park derbies:
“Those looking for a Reds wobble will tell you that they have now won only two of their last seven games in all competitions—albeit spread over more than four months—and fans hoping to see the swashbuckling ‘mentality monsters’ of the autumn and the winter were left a little underwhelmed.
“In truth, though, this was a game entirely in keeping with the recent history of this fixture.”
“Liverpool‘s work on the training pitch appears to have paid dividends, as some of the sides passing patterns were incredibly slick. The final ball was often lacking, but in transition, the attack still functioned very well.
Writing for the Independent, Karl Matchett felt Klopp’s side showed positive signs with their pressing game:
“Liverpool almost pressed to good effect in that first half-hour, with Firmino’s effort and one or two other chances almost arising from quick challenges and transitions in the attacking third.
“Minamino, Naby Keita and—predictably—Firmino were all key in this regard for the Reds.”
“The reason the Reds have for so long been looking for backup [at left-back] was underlined when James Milner’s early injury forced Joe Gomez to take on a role he last occupied in his first few games for the club.
“Instead, Klopp was forced into using the erratic Dejan Lovren there while watching one of his better central defenders doing a bad impression of a left-back. Again, that is highly unlikely to hugely affect Liverpool this term, but it is food for thought going into next season.”
There was praise for Naby Keita’s display, but reporters were less impressed with Takumi Minamino…
Lynch praised Keita for living up to the ‘pre-season’ hype and felt that the Guineans influence was highlighted by how Liverpool struggled after he was subbed:
“And he brought that form into his first outing since lockdown; pressing brilliantly, dribbling through lines, and passing more incisively than any of his midfield colleagues.
“His withdrawal with 65 minutes gone hurt the Reds in the centre of the park, but it should at least guarantee him a start against Crystal Palace. That would be nothing less than the 25-year-old deserves.”
Milne Minamino “flattered to deceive” and assessed that the No. 18 is unsuited to the right-sided role in which he was deployed:
“Again the Japanese forward flattered to deceive, and still doesn’t seem to have found a suitable role in the Liverpool team.
“Nevertheless, you get the feeling that Klopp has still not yet figured out how best to utilise the former Salzburg man, and it will be intriguing to see how he is deployed for the rest of the season.”
Lynch explained how Minamino’s struggles illustrated why Liverpool should have jumped at the chance to sign Timo Werner:
“It isn’t that Liverpool’s latest signing played particularly poorly, but more that he could not help but drift into central areas from his starting position on the right-hand side.
“And, while Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain fared slightly better in that regard following his introduction, there was still a feeling of ‘square peg, round hole’ about his deployment there—Something that could represent a major worry in the long term.
“Liverpool were keen to bring in Timo Werner for these sorts of situations and this evening’s game may have provided the perfect insight into why they may rue not signing him.”
Samuel is in no doubt that Minamino will become a long-term success and cited Klopp’s work in eventually bringing out the best of so many players:
“There was a time when Jordan Henderson‘s range of passing was considered a weak link, when Naby Keita was thought a poor investment at £52.7m, when Trent Alexander-Arnold was identified as defensively raw. Klopp has changed them all. He will improve Minamino too.”
Elsewhere, Fenton thought Sadio Mane was excellent on his return outing and singled the No. 10 out as the Reds’ best performer on the night:
“The Senegalese star was Liverpool‘s best player by some margin. He drew fouls from the Everton backline while also making a number of intelligent runs in behind—but was ultimately unable to carve out a clear opportunity of his own.”
Finally, Milne wrote how Virgil van Dijk dominated Richarlison, who should probably try “to do more of his talking on the pitch”:
“All the pressure was on Richarlison to deliver, then, but despite a positive start in which he fizzed a dangerous ball into the box he was kept largely quiet by Van Dijk.
“Toffees fans will be hoping their star man can do more of his talking on the pitch in the future, with his comments perhaps considered somewhat unhelpful ahead of the game.”