So it’s over and the wait goes on as once more Everton were unable to beat their neighbours in a Merseyside derby, with a late Dominic Calvert-Lewin goal and the intervention of VAR securing a point.
All the omens suggested just maybe the Toffees might finally be able to overcome their derby day failings and put this jinx to rest once and for all. It was even exactly ten years to the day since the Toffees last won a derby. But it wasn’t to be.
Everton went into this latest round of English football’s most played derby fixture in the best possible mood and form, for a change.
They were four from four in Premier League games and despite a few scares had seen their contingent of internationals all return basically fit and healthy this week. Although Seamus Coleman couldn’t stay on the pitch and was replaced by debutant Ben Godfrey.
So Carlo Ancelotti could and indeed did, pick his first-choice starting eleven that had delivered those four straight wins and top spot before the international break.
However, almost straight away the Toffees were a goal down as Sadio Mane scored after just three minutes. Any hopes the Blues boss might have had of getting settled and maybe controlling the tempo of the match early and dictating the game, were now out of the window.
Then as Liverpool continued to dominate the early exchanges, came the first moment of controversy when Jordan Pickford charged out of his goal and brought down Virgil van Dijk in the penalty box.
It was a reckless and potentially dangerous challenge but fortuitously for Everton, Pickford wasn’t sent off. It was offside so wouldn’t have been the penalty and the only player to leave the field in the end was the Reds defender who went off injured.
Liverpool were expecting VAR to reverse the referee’s decision or lack of it, but that didn’t happen. Maybe the Blues luck with VAR is turning at last, more on that later.
Pickford once more showed the two sides to his game this afternoon. His challenge on van Dijk was very foolish and could have cost the Toffees the match had he been sent off and Everton went down to ten men that early on.
But he did also make several outstanding saves later on to keep the home team in it. It’s just so difficult to know what to do about the goalkeeper situation and it does feel as though this kind of erratic behaviour from Pickford will end up costing the Blues big time sooner or later.
After the setback of such an early goal, Everton were struggling to get to grips with the match and their opponents were controlling the ball. It felt like usual derby day service was being resumed.
Liverpool were as I expected, a totally different team from the one that so limply surrendered at Aston Villa two weeks ago.
The two returning players for the Reds; Mane and Thiago Alcantara were outstanding and their best performers. Mane was a constant threat with his pace and movement and Thiago was spraying the ball around with great inciveness and accuracy. He looks a seriously good buy.
For Everton their own South American playmaker James Rodriguez was once again in superb form and looking the Blues biggest creative threat.
It was Rodriguez who provided yet another assist from a corner for Michael Keane to head the Toffees equaliser after twenty minutes. In truth the goal was very much against the run of play but at least Everton were back in it.
The Blues were beginning to get more possession and pose more questions, but tellingly they weren’t able to exert the kind of control they are now used to having in matches.
In the second half Liverpool again edged possession but the Blues were more threatening with Richarlison coming into the match more now. There were good chances at both ends.
Then came one of those individual errors that still keep cropping up in Everton’s play. This time it was Yerry Mina whose mistake in clearing a ball fell to Mohamed Salah and he finished unerringly.
So it looked as though the Toffees were going to lose their first game of the season. Then the man in form Calvert-Lewin rose high and equalised with one of his trademark headers.
But just as the match was petering out, came a mad last few minutes. First Richarlison lashed out at his compatriot Thiago and was sent off and then it seemed as though Jordan Hernderson had agonisingly won it for Liverpool with his shot that Pickford couldn’t keep out.
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However, again VAR came to Everton’s rescue and the goal was disallowed for offside with Mane just fractionally out of position. Then the Toffees nearly won it themselves in the dying seconds.
What to make if this latest episode in the long and incident-filled Merseyside derby fixture? Once again Everton couldn’t find a way to overcome their fiercest rivals and will now have to win at Anfield for the first time since 1999, if they are to do so this season. That’s an even taller task.
On reflection a point is obviously better than none and keeps the Blues unbeaten run going this season as well as keeping them top.
However, in truth Everton were second best and that indicates to me that the team are still a little way off being able to compete with the best sides in the Premier League. There was also evidence again that unforced individual errors haven’t been totally ironed out yet from some players’ game.
So it seems that despite all the huge progress this Blues team has made under Ancelotti, it is still a work in progress. They did go toe-to-toe with the champions playing at their best, but until the Toffees can win a game against one of the top three or four clubs like Liverpool, the question will be are they are capable of winning something or even necessarily of finishing in the top four?