Liverpool were the second game in a week for the toffees. Buoyant after an important win on Monday night, Sunday brought our neighbours from across the park. The same side that played at West Brom would get the nod on a pleasant Autumnal afternoon.

Positions

Liverpool played three centre halves with wingbacks and a tight advanced three of Milner, Ings and Sturridge. Everton set up as they normally do, the only surprise being to see Barkley more advanced than Naismith who struggled to get to grips with the position at times.

Three times in the opening minutes, Gareth Barry attempted quick forward passes. Notably so. Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukaku were the intended targets. The Deulofeu pass was incomplete with Mamadou Sakho covering across and heading the ball away from the Catalan. Everton were clearly eager to test out the Liverpool back line with their three centre halves. Deulofeu was going to try and punish any ill-judged foray forward from wing back Alberto Moreno and exploit the space in behind. In a rush to get the ball forward, however, we would need to give Lukaku more support than this:

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Liverpool would have the better of the half chances in the opening stages. Daniel Sturridge threaded a ball into the run of James Milner only for Tim Howard to come off his line and tackle the ball away from Milner. Sturridge would work a couple of yards for himself, cutting inside as Steven Naismith slipped, only to drag a shot badly wide. The third of the half chances came moments later. After a theatrical fall from Alberto Moreno, Liverpool had a free kick in the Everton half- which was comfortably headed away by Phil Jagielka. As the ball came to James Milner, Brendan Galloway (circled closest to the ball) in his (understandable) eagerness to press Martin Skrtel and not afford him any space, has pushed a little too far wide from Funes Mori at left centre half, and left a space for a ball to be played between the two:

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Fortunately for Everton, as the ball is released by Lucas, Jagielka (circled in the middle of the picture) has read the danger unfolding before him. As Mori leaves Sturridge to try and deny Skrtel the angle to deliver a cross across goal, Jagielka sprints in to Sturridge and manages to arrive just as the ball does…

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Jagielka prods the ball away and denies Sturridge what could well have been the opening goal. I’ve said this in previous weeks, but it is worth repeating: Jagielka’s performances have gone unnoticed for much of this season (though of late he has started to receive more praise). With a patched up back four, Jagielka has been the one constant, and his performances have been superb. Whilst younger players beside him have (rightly) received praise for their play despite their inexperience, Jagielka has barely put a foot wrong all season and his influence on those around him with his assured, dependable play, cannot be overstated.

Liverpool were having a few shots at goal now, though without really creating any particularly good opportunities (the above moment aside). They were the kind of efforts that allow you to rack up fifty (50) shots against Carlisle- a side playing their football in the fourth tier of English football- but not score enough to win. Everton were trying to get a foothold in the game, but weren’t really able to get going. Everton were intent on working the ball to Deulofeu off the back of his excellent performance at West Brom on Monday night, but the game plan was hampered by Deulofeu’s poor start to the match. Outmuscled by Moreno on a couple of occasions, and a heavy touch here and there meant his confidence had taken a knock. By the time the first opportunity to really exploit the Everton game plan presented itself, Deulofeu did not have the confidence in himself to take advantage…

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Having intercepted a Sturridge pass in his own half intended for Moreno, Deulofeu carried the ball forward and tried to force a pass into Lukaku. It was a difficult pass and Can was able to snuff the opportunity out as he came inside to cover Lukaku with Skrtel, but with Moreno badly out of position down the other end of the pitch, Deulofeu had the chance to attack Sakho (circled) with bags of space in which to work. This will have been the plan in Finch Farm all week to create moments like these as Moreno pushed on, and had Deulofeu have started the game well, I think he’d have attacked Sakho here.

Twenty five minutes in and the first decent save from either ‘keeper. Time Howard would get his foot to a James Milner prod at goal after a one-two with the anonymous -to this point- Philippe Coutinho…

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Coutinho was being denied space in the middle of the park by the excellent Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, but Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno were creeping forward, confident Everton’s play out wide was not threatening to hurt them. Naismith was having a difficult afternoon in an unfamiliar position, and Deulofeu was underwhelming on the Everton right. From the corner, Liverpool would again win the header as they had before from previous corners, but were yet to test Tim Howard from a set piece. Having conceded from a corner against West Brom, Everton were again looking nervy from corners.

A goal kick later and what would turn out to be the best chance of the game for either side. Superb, strong hold up play from Lukaku as he held off Liverpool challenges and played the ball inside to Barkley. Under pressure from three, Barkley would turn superbly and leave Lucas Leiva no choice other than to chop him down. Like a fat arl Sunday league midfielder, unable to cope with his hangover, let alone his younger more skillful opposite number- Lucas did well to get close enough to kick him…

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From the free kick, Barkley would drop the ball onto the head of Naismith, very reminiscent of a James Beattie goal against Blackburn almost ten years ago (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0ZMbOyaCcY). Beattie and Arteta gave each other they eyes that day, and I’m sure something similar took place on Sunday. It was a chance that shows the limitations of playing a purely zonal defence when defending a free kick…

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Naismith (circled) has drifted from left to right across the line of Liverpool defenders and nobody has followed. Beside him is Sakho who is worried about Lukaku behind him. With nobody ahead of Naismith, this is now crying out for the ball Barkley would deliver

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Credit to Barkley for spotting the opportunity, and his delivery was perfect. Naismith made good contact, but his header was far too close to Simon Mignolet in goal who managed to tip the header over. Three centre halves on the pitch, five defenders in total, and Liverpool unable to stop the simplest of chances unfolding.

The chance appeared to kick a spluttering Everton into life as two minutes later, Mignolet would be forced into his second good save. More bustling work from Lukaku as he threw off challenges (more of this please, Rom) inside the Liverpool half and started a move from left to right that ended at the feet of Deulofeu. The move was the most fluid Everton had looked to this point, and it coincided with Naismith being momentarily higher and Barkley deeper- coincidence?

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As Barkley drew the attention toward him, he played the ball into Naismith who had been able to find space between the lines. The threat of Barkley, and Naismith’s instinctive movement afforded him the time to turn and swap passes with Lukaku…

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The ball would end up at the feet of McCarthy via a half cleared Deulofeu whipped cross (we would go on to see something similar a little later) and McCarthy would force another smart save from Mignolet in goal…

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As the ball was struck, Galloway was Everton’s most advanced player having helped start the move down the Everton left moments earlier. Everton weren’t intimidated facing a team with wing backs for the first time this season, and Liverpool were under pressure, their ‘keeper having now twice dug them out of trouble.

Five minutes before the half was out and just as Everton were beginning to tick, Liverpool would take the lead. Gerard Deulofeu surrendered possession cheaply, and frustrations amongst the home crowd with the diminutive winder grew louder…

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Liverpool were ideally placed to break, with the ball at the feet of Coutinho, Ings was telling him where he wanted the ball. A nightmare scenario for Everton who were entitled to expect better from Deulofeu, but now have Barry and McCarthy badly out of position- with only Jagielka and Mori in their own half. As the ball was played into Ings, Mori is left with the unenviable decision of how to play the situation from here

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With Sturridge totally free at the bottom of the screen, he heads for Ings at pace to try and force a mistake. On Monday night he was left in an almost identical situation and reacted in the same way

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Mori is two on one here and again, sprinted to create pressure on the ball carrier. He was unable to stop the pass on Monday night, but was able to sweep the ball away from Ings on this occasion with Everton as exposed as you could be…

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Much to the frustration of Daniel Sturridge who has just returned from his latest hip/leg/foot/full body injury to remember his strike partner is no longer Luis Suarez. Superb athletic scrambling defence from Mori. No doubt in a bar in Rio somewhere, Tim Vickery will have watched the chance unfold and eyes as wide as saucers turn to a stranger and in broken Portuguese tried to justify his assessment of Mori by telling him “but he signed Boselli, you know?”. Very early days in his Everton career but so far Mori is appearing to be everything Tim Vickery did not describe. Unfortunately for Mori and Everton, this was all in vain as Liverpool would take the lead from the resulting corner.

On Monday night, West Brom scored a poor set piece goal to concede from a defensive perspective as Craig Dawson drifted off Ross Barkley to head in from under the nose of Tim Howard…

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Just days later and history would repeat itself…

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Ings is beside Howard with Barkley close to him. As the ball comes in, Barkley jumps underneath the ball and Ings has a free header from four yards out, Howard having stayed glued to his line…

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Poor from both, particularly in the context of what happened in the last match. This should have been addressed all week in Finch Farm, but instead we’ve managed to gift a goal to our opposition again. An awful goal to concede.

Everton would go on to draw level before the half was out. Deulofeu was afforded half a yard of space to deliver a whipped cross that was only half cleared and found its way to Lukaku. A composed finish from the Belgian leveled the scores. A moment of relief for Deulofeu who from Monday to Sunday would define a hot and cold winger. It was a delivery of real quality from Deulofeu, flat and pacey into a good area just as he had repeatedly done against West Brom.

The second half was turning out to be a poor affair, with neither side able to exert any sustained pressure on the other. As the half wore on, the less risks Liverpool were prepared to take. Brendan Rodgers had been under huge pressure coming into the game and his side were content to play out the half and take a point. With Coutinho comfortably shackled by McCarthy, Liverpool carried no real attacking threat, and Sturridge was unable to get into the game to change that. When Everton did create one of the few chances of the half, it went as quickly as it came…

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Aaron Lennon, on for Deulofeu has managed to fizz in a good low cross, but nobody has made a near post run. Some managers ask the closest player in these situations to make a near post run, regardless of the situation… The idea being you’ve a chance to get to the ball if it comes in like this, and if not- you’ve likely dragged an opposition player out of position to follow your run and therefore created space behind you and an opportunity for a teammate to follow in. Everton don’t do that under Martinez, but a low front post cross is frequently used by our wingers, we just haven’t taken advantage of these moments well enough:

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This from the West Brom game…

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This from the Swansea game the week before and so on and so forth.

The best chance of the second half would come to Lukaku after a Mori pass into Lennon was dummied/flicked slightly into the pass of the Belgian who had to hit the chance first time on the angle…

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It was straight at Mignolet who palmed away his international teammates shot with ease.

The second half wasn’t great viewing. Nervy stuff, Everton were unable to gain any momentum- partly thanks to poor wide play, but largely because any time Everton were looking threatening, progress was halted by a foul that rarely resulted in a yellow. How Lucas managed to avoid a second booking having tripped McCarthy as Everton attacked is beyond me. A cynical foul which the referee did give, which makes his refusal to give a second yellow all the more puzzling. An abject refereeing performance can be summed up in the following pictures…

Martin Atkinson rightly awards a free kick for a foul on Coutinho from Barry. The first of the following pictures shows where the free kick was awarded, the second shows where it was taken from…

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Considering how fastidious Atkinson had been with Everton previously, this was dreadful refereeing under his nose, and left Everton completely vulnerable with three minutes remaining…

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Had it not been for the excellent Mori, aware to the danger, making a last gasp diving challenge, Sturridge was through one on one to win the game as a result of that quick free kick taken seven or eight yards from where it was awarded….. But don’t forget, according to Tim Vickery, Mori isn’t any good. Signing him was a massive mistake from Martinez having signed then Argentinian international Mauro Boselli back in 2010. If Tim Vickery was a scout, he’d be on the dole.

The game came to an anti-climatic end, not before Sakho had managed to scoff a handful of courage pills and confront Lukaku in the 89th minute having been bullied by the Belgian all afternoon alongside fellow apparrant hardman Skrtel. Whatever it takes to keep you a cult hero, I suppose, Mamadou.

Anyway, that was that. Don’t be disheartened we didn’t beat a poor side. Bit of luck here and there, a competent referee, and a couple of these guys out of the stand to pick from…

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And we would have. We were the better side. United next…

As always, you can find me here on Twitter for more nonsense:

@EvertonMusings

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