Gerrard Denied Derby Farewell Win

Published: 08th February 2015 09:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th February 2015 01:04 PM   |  A+A-


Everton 0 Liverpool 0

According to the Everton matchday programme, such is the allure of the Merseyside derby, "journalists pour up from London" to watch. After this, the traffic up the M6 may not be as frenetic. Cagey rather than inspired, tighter than a Treasury spending commitment, with the principle aim not to lose at all costs, this was a derby which rarely threatened to explode.

Indeed, the biggest cheer of a static first half was when Steven Gerrard misdirected a pass five yards behind a colleague into touch. How they enjoyed that in the Gwladys Street End.

This was Gerrard's 33rd and last Merseyside derby, during which time he has relished the role as Everton's nemesis. Though on his final appearance at a Goodison ground where he has enjoyed rich pickings, he found it difficult to get much meaningful control of the ball. In part, that was because Roberto Martinez was able to instruct James McCarthy to snap at his heels.

If the blue team were going to close the gap which currently stands on Liverpool 89 derby victories to Everton's 66, how they needed the Irishman's bustling urgency. His return gave the home side's midfield an early injection of dynamism. On 21 minutes he set Seamus Coleman free with a delightfully weighted pass. The full back bundled down the right and crossed for Steven Naismith who couldn't make proper contact with his header.

That was as close as it came for Everton in the first forty five. With Romelu Lukaku seemingly carrying handicapper's weights in his shorts, looking as slow as he did bulky, there was little threat to convert McCarthy and Kevin Miralles's industry.

For Liverpool, meanwhile, as their skipper made his farewells, it was a case of out with the old in with the new. Jordon Ibe, recalled from a successful loan spell at Derby, was the closest Brendan Rodgers had made to a January signing. Described by Gerrard as being like Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling rolled into one, the 19-year-old was given responsibility in the derby ahead of Sturridge, Rickie Lambert and the ever diminishing yarn that is Mario Balotelli.

Patrolling the right wing, the Wycombe-born teenager's first two contributions were not auspicious. He let a pass from Jordan Henderson under his foot, then put Emre Can into trouble with an ill-directed ball along the touchline. He should have been in within a quarter of an hour, when Sterling's shot across Joel Robles arrived at his feet on the far post. But the Everton keeper scrambled it clear. Ten minutes later, he gave hint of his potential. After a lovely quick run, with Everton's defenders backing off, he unleashed a fiercesome strike which thumped against Robles's post.

Sturridge, warming up over half-time, came on just after Gerrard had put a shot from a corner over the bar. He replaced Philippe Coutinho, who had twisted his knee in the first half and clearly failed to respond to treatment in the dressing room. It meant Liverpool now had a front line of rare technical accomplishment, a trio of dazzling ball players, all of them English and all apparently frequenting the same Merseyside barbers. But they barely had a touch in tandem.

Everton's January loan signing Aaron Lennon arrived on the hour. Given a lengthy briefing by Martinez, he trotted out to a sizeable welcome, though the warmth of the applause was not sufficient for him to crack a smile. Busy and progressive, Lennon was directed to the wing where he could attack Mamadou Sakho, Martinez immediately sensing he would get little change out of Can, who was having a superbly authoritative afternoon on the right side of Liverpool's back three. Here Lennon frequently shared passes with Coleman, but neither of them could find a way through.

By now frustrations began to surface in the Everton sections as forward momentum was frequently checked by a sideways pass. Or, in the case of a gallop from Coleman, a misdirected cross ballooned over Simon Mignolet's bar.

Liverpool had their moments. Ibe skimmed down the byline to cross beyond Robles's reach. But Alberto Moreno's attempted Rabona drizzled ineffectively into Robles's hands. Can's dazzling footwork almost brought a chance for the substitute Joe Allen, but his finish did not match the build-up.

Martinez encouraged his players forward with some frantic semaphore. Lukaku burst past a tiring Can, but Henderson slid in as he closed down on goal. From the resulting corner, Lennon spooned the ball wide. With McCarthy tiring, the home fans attempted to project the ball forward on a wall of sound. Lennon hared forwards into the area and exchanged passes with Naismith. But the return - in a manner which characterised Everton's work - was not sufficiently accurate.

Rodgers decided muscle might be the answer and sent on Rickie Lambert for Sterling with 10 minutes remaining. By now the ball was ping-ponging around. Neither side, though, could find the killer pass to turn endeavour into three points.

A victory was certainly not going to be conjured by Lambert's stabbed shot which dribbled into Robles's gloves.

With five minutes to go Martinez brought on - way too late for home tastes - Ross Barkley and Antolin Alvaraz. And the move almost paid off when Barkley's delicious through ball found Lennon, who darted into the area. But his pull back was easily smothered by Mignolet.

For the Everton fans all that was left was to jeer Gerrard's late shot wide of the post and boo roundly as he left the pitch for the last time. How they will miss him.

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