It started off at a frenetic pace and ended that way too. It was a Merseyside derby that swung back and forth with a relentless vigor that ended up with Everton and Liverpool sharing the spoils in a six-goal thriller that will leave both managers feeling that they could and perhaps should have taken all three points.
The signs of what was to come were there when Kevin Mirallas equalized Philippe Coutinho’s opening goal all within the opening 10 minutes. Luis Suarez soon put the visitors back in front and was then involved in the match’s most controversial moment when he was on the receiving end of a horrible tackle by Mirallas that should have seen red, but only got yellow.
Liverpool could have put the result beyond doubt after the break when Joe Allen missed a gilt-edged chance. That, though, would have been unfair on Everton who were the dominant team for much of the second period. And it looked like Roberto Martinez was going to taste victory in his first Merseyside derby when another debutant Romelu Lukaku equalized and then headed his side in front with eight minutes remaining. But the breathless encounter had one final twist when Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to head in for a share of the points with a minute remaining. Incredibly, both sides still had chances to go back in front.
At the final whistle the two managers, both of whom made their breakthrough in the Swansea City dugout, shared a knowing smile of the entertainment their teams had served up and the stress they both would have been through in the 90 minutes. And, on reflection, neither Roberto Martinez nor Brendan Rodgers will likely be too disheartened by the final outcome that takes Everton up to fifth for the time being, while Liverpool remain second. Both, though, will doubtless be working on defending from set-pieces, which incredibly led to five of the match’s goals.
From the start it was a match played at a relentless tempo of the sort befitting a derby rather than the saunters that can often be brought on by an early kickoff. Given the pace of proceedings, there was little surprise that the opening goal took just five minutes to arrive.
Everton failed to clear a corner as Suarez went for a header six yards out and the ball ran through for Coutinho, who made a clever run to peel off to the back post, and the Brazilian controlled before firing in on the volley.
It was not a lead that the visitors would hold for long. Liverpool too failed to deal effectively with a set-piece. Leighton Baines’ free-kick caught Liverpool dropped too deep inside their area and when the ball was touched on Mirallas reacted quicker than Steven Gerrard to turn a shot in from close range.
The pace showed no signs of letting up. While sometimes the technical quality wasn’t as high as it could have been, Suarez came up with a moment of typical craft to put his side back in front. The Uruguayan, who boarded a private jet to make it back from Uruguay in midweek, spotted a gap to the side of the Everton wall as he lined up a free-kick and curled a free-kick perfectly through it and inside Tim Howard’s post.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez had brought youngster Ross Barkley back into to the starting lineup to add some extra creativity to the side after successive goalless draws. And it was the much-hyped England international who was looking the hosts’ best chance of getting back into the contest.
Everton’s efforts were so nearly compromised by Mirallas crudely sticking his studs into the knee of Suarez. Mirallas was lucky to escape red from referee Phil Dowd, while Suarez likely only escaped serious injury due to his foot not being planted into the turf at the time.
Liverpool, with Lucas and Joe Allen holding in midfield and Gerrard, Jordan Hernderson, and Coutinho working hard in front of them, had largely kept Everton quiet in the second half. But their threat became increasingly prominent after the break as Everton increased their attacking intensity and the lack of dynamism in Liverpool’s midfield was exposed.
Substitute Gerard Deulofeu should have brought his side level with one of his first contributions but, clean through the middle, his tame effort was saved by the legs of Mignolet. Minutes later, Liverpool had an even better chance when Allen somehow side-footed wide of the post with the goal at his mercy.
It was to prove a pivotal moment. Everton caused increasing problems with Lukaku finally making his mark on the proceedings. Twice the big Belgian was denied by his fellow countryman in Liverpool’s goal. He was thwarted a third time from a deflected free-kick, but Everton were able to keep the pressure on and the ball eventually came back into the area for Lukaku to produce a controlled finish to find the net.
Ten minutes later it was looking like being a dream introduction to Merseyside derbies for the striker on loan from Chelsea. The 20-year-old got his seventh Everton goal when he rose easily over both Liverpool full-backs to head a corner powerfully into the net.
Yet, it was Sturridge who was to have the last word. The striker, who only started on the bench after picking up a knock on international duty, made a big impact with a clever, glancing header from another fine Gerrard delivery to silence the previously jubilant Goodison Park.