Ibe and Young Lions Light Up Drab Merseyside Derby

Published: 09th February 2015 09:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th February 2015 09:07 AM   |  A+A-


As a spectacle the Merseyside derby underwhelmed, but when the scout reports are dispatched to Roy Hodgson, they will review a thriller.

Not so long ago the international manager would have taken comfort from a gentle ripple of English -players excelling in the Premier League's peak events, never mind a new wave. Hodgson must feel reinvigorated by what now appears a tsunami of young talent. Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley are squad regulars; John Stones will surely be the established first-choice centre-half before the European Championship; and here Jordon Ibe gave a derby debut of such astounding maturity that Hodgson is sure to be dispatching assistants to monitor his progress over the next 18 months.

Tottenham and their modern Harry Hotspur will arrive at Anfield tomorrow for a fixture that will not only offer a hint of the immediate

direction of the race for Champions League places, but also the future of Hodgson's line?up.

"If you see the young British talent on the pitch [on Saturday], then you cannot say that young British players are not technically and tactically good enough," Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, said. "This is a real springboard for Jordon Ibe. To come to Goodison and play like he did, showing that confidence and temperament, was outstanding. Harry Kane and Ryan Mason have been the restoration for Tottenham. Two British players who can play football, can press and have quality. That has been their change - a guy that can press up front."

It bodes well for the future, but it served only as compensation given the absence of drama at Goodison Park. If Roberto Martinez and Rodgers had shaken hands after 15 minutes it would have saved everyone the time, effort, stress and costs.

This was a strategic derby - something to keep those who marvel at the art of formation-building giddy until the next World Chess Championship slows the pulse rate. But there was plenty to admire in the defensive discipline.

James McCarthy was especially good on his return from hamstring injury, underlining why Everton have looked so fragile without him. Muhamed Besic demonstrated why he will be a natural combative partner for the Republic of Ireland midfielder, and Barkley did more as an attacking force in five minutes than most had managed in the previous 85.

For all the platitudes for the English youth, Rodgers reserved most praise for Emre Can, who is rapidly becoming the stick with which all of us who queried the majority of Liverpool's summer recruits will be heavily beaten. He looks a steal - a player of strength, skill, poise and courage.

The irony will not be lost on Hodgson that in a game brimming with English talent, the most eye-catching performance of all was still that of a German.

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