Everton 0 - 1 Liverpool
I'd had a good day. My sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in the morning on the same day my brother celebrated his birthday so when you think about happy families the derby result is kind of put into perspective. However the misery doesn't ease. I can barely remember what a Merseyside derby win feels like it's been that long but seldom will one be decided as cruelly as this one. Will we ever have a shot screw off the post and across the goal in the 94th minute for someone to tap in for a Merseyside derby winner? The one time we did spawn an injury time winner Graham Poll blew for full time when the ball crossed the goal line for Heavens-sake. Luck, and decisions, just don't go our favour in Merseyside derbies.
That said, Liverpool will feel they did enough to win the game such was Everton's inability to match them in midfield after the break and it was apt that the best player on the pitch by a country mile scored the winning goal, even if he won't get many easier. After a good go in the first half, Everton just didn't come out of the traps in the second, or even stay with Liverpool who were right on the money after the break. Whilst Divock Origi missed a great chance in the first half, our "if only" opportunity came the way of Ramiro Funes Mori, usually such a good attacking header of the ball, but he headed wide with a good chance from a corner kick. However we were in the game up until half time and right in their faces.
Whilst we have to accept defeat as the better team won, we can point to bit of misfortune in losing the scrappy James McCarthy at the break, and also in losing Maarten Stekelenburg midway through the second half. It meant we could only use one tactical substitution in the end and though I love to see young players get opportunities, I felt this was a wasted substitution from Ronald Koeman when Enner Valencia's toil was becoming quite useful in the game.
You felt for Romelu Lukaku in attack. He won countless headers but Ross Barkley and Enner Valencia weren't getting around him enough. You really struggled to see how we were going to find a route to goal and the closest we came was perhaps late on when Romelu Lukaku ran at them on his own and nearly made it through, the ball ricocheting to the grateful, and criminally under-worked throughout, Simon Mignolet.
With eight minutes of stoppage time signalled and Everton, briefly at this point, in the game, the crowd roared and we dared to dream. We won a free kick in a reasonable position to whip a good ball in. Get a good ball into the box, win your header and you just never know, but only Everton can make a mess of things like we did here. First Ross Barkley tried to slip it down the flank to Seamus Coleman but didn't get nearly enough contact on it and Seamus had to work well to control the ball and get it back to Ross for another crossing opportunity. Ross then spooned the ball up into the air so ridiculously high and out for a goal kick. Jesus just get the ball in the box Ross! I actually hold that piece of stupidity semi-responsible for Liverpool's winner. Yes, a lot happened between then and Liverpool's goal but they were on the front foot straight away when they should have been pegged back. And what goes and happens? Daniel Sturridge scuffs a shot which moved so slowly, almost seemingly in slow motion that I don't know why Joel Robles didn't just run over to it and pick it up. I was at the other end of the pitch, and would have to see it again, but I couldn't believe how slowly the ball travelled and how it wasn't stopped.
It couldn't, of course, have just bounced off the post and away. No, this is Liverpool, with endless luck. It instead went across goal and was stabbed in by the grateful Mane. It was such an Everton way to lose a game and we do this all the time. Ugly scenes marred the final few minutes. Two or three flares were thrown onto the pitch by Liverpool supporters and one fan played a bit of Keystone Cops down at the Park End. Someone else also got onto the pitch nearer us in the Lower Gwladys but I don't really know what happened there.
In the remainder of stoppage time we just couldn't get any momentum to force an equaliser and it was almost a relief to be put out of our misery on what must have been 100+ minutes. Did we have just the one shot on target (and that very easy for Mignolet) in all that time? I can moan about bad goalkeeping and Liverpool's luck but if you don't shoot, you don't score. We should try that once in a while.
So that's my Merseyside derby misery over with for another season as I can't see myself going to Anfield for more pain. I wish we could just abandon this fixture such is our pitiful record. I expect defeat every time now and just can't wait for that patronising head nod "unlucky mate" wince from my Liverpool FC supporting colleagues tomorrow.
Happy bloody Christmas.
Stekelenburg: People questioned his distribution but one stray kick aside, he seemed to find Romelu Lukaku most often with his kicks, it was what happened from there which went wrong. Nobody got around Lukaku to feed off his headers. Maarten made a great save in the second half and taking him off was a substitution we really could have done without having to make. 7
Baines: My man of the match. Our skipper for the evening produced a classy display, especially defensively. 8
Funes Mori: He had an excellent first half but for a while was all at sea in the second though did recover and looked to have contributed towards keeping them out. He wasn't our worst centre back of the evening. 6
Williams: He seems so lethargic at times and doesn't even get the basics right. A really loose display for me and he certainly has some way to go to win me over in an Everton shirt. Plus, I've just seen the goal again, what the hell is he doing ball watching when Mane scores? Talk about switching off. 4
Coleman: Full of effort. Perhaps needed more quality in his delivery when he had opportunities, especially in the first half, but you couldn't doubt his effort. 7
Gueye: Was always sharp into the tackle but he can't tackle everybody and we seemed to get sucked out of position so much, so often in the second half and it seemed quit easy for Liverpool to work through the middle of our pitch. Losing James McCarthy was perhaps as much of a loss to Idrissa Gueye as it was to anybody else in the team. 6
McCarthy: Though you would expect Gareth Barry to be a good replacement, the loss of McCarthy may have been crucial towards Liverpool's dominance in the second half. They got through us in the middle far too often and I wonder, particularly if his first half efforts are anything to go by, if they would have been able to do this had James McCarthy been available. We can only hope his injury isn't serious, because his last two performances against Arsenal and in the first half against Liverpool have both been much improved. 7
Lennon: Probably one of our better players. In the second half he didn't get forward as much as he would have liked but he had to be disciplined defensively, and that he was. Couldn't his scuffed first half effort has spooned off the post and across goal for Lukaku to tap in? 7
Valencia: Lacked quality in the first half but was growing into the game in the second and was maybe our best hope of creating something for Lukaku...and then he was substituted. 6
Barkley: Certainly the biggest disappointment of the evening. He never got going at all and it was a shame all our substitutions were used up as he was something of a dead weight as the game wore on, particularly once he was booked. He did flicker into life briefly in the second half but he couldn't sustain it and I'm still shocked by that utterly ridiculous free kick in injury time. A really disappointing display. 4
Lukaku: If I was him and I had his quality, I'd be very angry coming off that field. OK, Romelu doesn't often look up for the pass when he has the ball but how isolated do you want your striker to be? Talk about living off scraps! As the home team our lack of creativity was a real disgrace and Romelu should be furious with his teammates. 7
Barry (for McCarthy): To be fair to Gareth it must have been a tough game to be introduced to at the break but he never got up to the tempo. It wasn't for lack of trying but he just couldn't live with them, not in the way that James McCarthy could. 5
Robles (for Stekelenburg): He made one good save, perhaps one you'd expect him to save but a good save nonetheless. As for the goal. Well at the time I thought it was his fault but now having seen it again I'm not so sure how much he could have done really. It was scuffed so badly and it's Williams who needs to hang his head there for not tracking his man and anticipating the danger. It was pretty unlucky the goal really. The ball even hit the base of the post. How does a ball hit the base of the post and squirm that way across the goal rather than straight back out? It defies science, though these Reds often do. 7
Calvert-Lewin (for Valencia): Not really the right game to throw him into. Surely Kevin Mirallas was the better option, if indeed, a substitution was required at all at that point. If you're going to give this lad a go, then start him up front at Leicester City on Boxing Day alongside Romelu, not throw him into the blood and thunder of the derby with 20 minutes to go. 5
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