Despite a solid and determined effort Everton were beaten as usual at Anfield yesterday and while there were positives from the game, lessons must also be learned too.
For most of the match yesterday lunchtime the Toffees were comfortable and more than held their own against superior opponents in spite of being down to ten men after half an hour.
In the end though a combination of appalling refereeing and player mistakes cost Everton the game and the points.
Blues supporters will be rightly furious at the way in which disgracefully one-eyed officiating has cost them the chance of taking something from the derby.
But despite all that, which is perfectly true and valid, the reality is that the Toffees never looked like winning the game and rarely put a glove on Liverpool, prefering instead to drop off, defend deep and hope for a goal on the break or from a set-piece.
And again, individual errors came back to haunt them and undermined that strategy in the end, with Micheal Keane’s blunder literally handing Liverpool a penalty that broke the deadlock.
I can understand the reasons for the tactics employed by Sean Dyche and it was almost inevitable that he would opt for such an approach.
Being a naturally cautious coach and facing as he usually does, superior opponents on their turf the temptation is to set up his side to try and frustrate them and hope at least not to lose.
Yesterday it nearly worked and secured Everton a point, which let’s be honest most Blues fans would have probably settled for before kick-off.
However, I think there was an opportunity to spring a surprise and maybe even win the match if the visitors had shown more attacking ambition.
The Reds and manager Jurgen Klopp knew that the Toffees would set up that way and so they knew they didn’t need to play very well (which they didn’t) and could afford to be patient and simply wait for a mistake, or for the ref to intervene on their behalf!
Liverpool’s defence has been their biggest weakness this season and Everton started with the same side that beat Bournemouth and could have played with a bit more aggression and energy, they could have scored an early goal or two and changed the predictable pattern of the game.
As it was Dominic Calvert-Lewin had a chance to do so, which he spurned. That turned out to be the only shot on target which the Blues managed all game.
Obviously, Ashley Young’s sending off played a huge part in undermining any chance the away team had of getting a result, but they still held for a long time and a bit more determination and attacking endeavour could still have paid dividends.
I hate to see Everton sit back and give Liverpool too much respect, we never used to do so and often won derbies when the odds seemed stacked against us by playing in a determined and energetic way.
It is true that the game has changed and the sort of physical aggresion that used to so unsettle Liverpool isn’t really posible now and especially not with the referees we’re dealing with! But the Blues have to show more intent in these games.
The biggest positive was the performance of the defence, in particular Jarrad Branthwaite, who continued to hugely impress and James Tarkowski alongside him who was rock solid all afternoon.
In addition, Vitalii Mykolenko had a superb match containing Mohamed Salah for most of the game. He has made big strides recently which is good to see.
Leaving aside yesterday’s fixture, in a wider sense Everton really must offer more of a threat both at home and away to secure enough points for survival.
Simply trying to avoid defeat on their travels isn’t going to be enough in my view, and games like yesterday represented an opportunity to try and surprise vulnerable opponents with a more positive and attacking approach.
To be fair, as I’ve said before under Dyche the Toffees have secured some good results away from home, but there is still a sense that they are too catious on their travels.
And after all, relying on home form at Goodison Park doesn’t look as though it will be enough.
Furthermore, Dyche has to get his in-game decisions right. Bringing on Keane and not taking off Young for Nathan Patterson after his first yellow card proved very costly decisions.
I don’t understand why Patterson wasn’t starting at right-back anyway. And I don’t ever want to see Keane on the pitch in a royal blue shirt again.
Next up is a trip to East London for a match at West Ham United. Points are still desperately needed and so can Everton produce another away win to help put yesterday’s defeat behind them?