Like most games Liverpool have drawn this season, Sunday’s 1-1 stalemate with Everton had the feel of a defeat, that perception of two points dropped rather than one gained. This result was especially galling for the Reds, not just because of the opposition but because they had been so dominant throughout the 90 minutes but were left with the same reward as a team who did so little to deserve anything from the game. Even by Sam Allardyce standards, Everton were painfully negative, content to hoof the ball out of danger rather than invest any real effort in constructing passages of play. However, they were let off the hook by a Liverpool side who were desperately profligate with the plethora of chances they had and switched off fatally for the penalty that was correctly awarded to the Toffees. Here are the three main talking points from the Merseyside derby draw at Anfield.
1 – Klopp gets it dismally wrong
Jurgen Klopp has got a lot right since taking over at Liverpool in October 2015, but he is hugely culpable for yesterday’s atrocious result. Even with another game coming up on Wednesday night, the decision to omit Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino from the starting line-up in favour of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke was a gamble that backfired awfully. With the two Brazilians on from the start, Liverpool would probably have converted more than one of the chances that they created. Worse still was Klopp’s baffling decision to withdraw the world-class Mohamed Salah when the Reds held a 1-0 lead, depriving the team of their most creative and effective threat. It’s no coincidence that Liverpool did not look as threatening in the final third after the Egyptian was substituted and that change offered Everton an unexpected boost. Klopp also let him down after the match when tearing strips off Craig Pawson for awarding a penalty against Dejan Lovren after he bundled over Dominic Calvert-Lewin. It was a clear foul and yet the German made a big deal of it afterwards instead of taking the rap for his misguided personnel selections.
2 – Too many players underperformed
Klopp’s much-changed team selection gave some less utilised players the chance to stake a long-term claim for a first team spot and while some gave a decent account of themselves, others failed to make the most of their opportunity. Solanke was not found wanting for effort, but he clearly lacks the sharpness that the likes of Salah and Firmino possess in spades. Andrew Robertson got forward to good effect at times but was culpable of some terrible ball distribution. James Milner and Jordan Henderson provided none of the leadership that you’d expect as a given from the team’s vice-captain and captain. Even Sadio Mane, normally so devastating and effervescent, was subdued and he made a major mess of that chance just before half-time when he failed to lay the ball off to any of three players who would have had a simple finish to make it 2-0 and leave Everton with a serious mountain to climb. Lovren again had a day to forget, getting caught the wrong side of Calvert-Lewin for the penalty and being left with no option but to shove him over clumsily. Flawed and all as Klopp’s selection was, some of the players ought to be very disappointed with their performances on Sunday.
3 – Big opportunity to pounce on rivals’ slip-ups goes begging
Had Liverpool got to full-time with the 1-0 lead intact, this weekend would have been seen as one that had gone perfectly for the Reds, not just because of a derby victory. On Saturday, third-placed Chelsea fell to a surprise defeat at West Ham, meaning that a win for Liverpool would have taken level on points with the champions and ahead of them on goals scored. In the minutes before kick-off at Anfield, word would have filtered through that Arsenal missed their opportunity to temporarily leapfrog Klopp’s men after the Gunners could only draw 1-1 at Southampton. Those results were the perfect set-up for Liverpool to take full advantage, but instead they are left two points adrift of Chelsea and just one clear of fifth-placed Arsenal. Also, Tottenham’s emphatic win over Stoke on Saturday has brought them right back into the top four mix on 28 points, two behind Liverpool. Indeed, had the Reds won yesterday, they would have ended the day within three points of Manchester United after their defeat to runaway leaders City. The net gain might be a point on the two teams immediately above them, but the 1-1 draw must go down as a real missed opportunity for Liverpool to have stolen a march on the clubs around them.