Premier League

It was terrible - but Liverpool's derby draw moves them a step closer to glory

The Reds were far from at their best in an attritional contest but it's a point closer to their end goal of the title

7:30am on Monday 22nd June 2020
Nicholas Hughes

It's frustrating when the prize is so close.

It's even more frustrating when the match is as low-key and lacking in inspiration as this. But though Everton matched Liverpool and could have won it at the end, all that matters is that the Reds are a point closer to the Premier League title.

The 236th Merseyside Derby was one to resemble no other and, hopefully, one of a kind throughout the many meetings to come. The usual raucousness and gusto of Goodison Park was of course replaced by the eerie silence of the stadium’s emptiness. Derby angst and fiery passion was largely void from the fixture in its surrounds.

Everton made most of the early noise in the clash, with Richarlison coming closest in the opening exchanges, but it was their structural solidity that dictated much of the first half as Liverpool struggled to regain their table-topping quality.

In between Liverpool dominated the ball but the rustiness of three months off was in full effect as the players regained touch with the ball after the break. Trent Alexander-Arnold led the game with 109 touches, but almost a third of those ended in Everton hands, with 32 possession losses in total.

Jurgen Klopp handed Takumi Minamino a first Premier League start with Mohamed Salah only fit enough for the bench, while Andrew Robertson was absent from the matchday squad as James Milner assumed his place at left-back, and the team lacked flow and coherence.

Everton were happy to relinquish possession and focus on defending, so much so that goalkeeper Jordan Pickford led the team in passes with just 33, 25 of those being long balls. The top seven in that regard were all Reds, with Joe Gomez attempting 43 passes in his 47 minute spell. But other than a Roberto Firmino shot scuffed wide in the first half, the Reds never truly looked like breaking through.

They edged the Expected Goals (xG) total, but only slightly, 0.66 to Everton’s 0.62, with the biggest chance of the game being that Calvert-Lewin flick which earned 0.14 xG as Everton ended the stronger. Alisson sprawled to save DLC's effort before Tom Davies rebounded onto the post.

But it would have been cruel on either side to lose. Calvert-Lewin was limited to just two touches inside the Liverpool penalty area, while Liverpool’s highest in that department was defender Virgil van Dijk with 11, which kinds of sums things up as to how the contest went.

The result is a third successive goalless draw in league derbies at Goodison and means Liverpool have scored just twice in their last six trips across Stanley Park in the Premier League. The second goalless draw of the league’s return means Liverpool cannot wrap the title up at Anfield against Crystal Palace during the week, unless Burnley take points from Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Monday night.

FC’s Man of the Match was Fabinho – winning 3/3 tackles, 3/4 aerial duels, seven recoveries and 59 passes on 93% accuracy contributing to a 7.6 rating.

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