Everton 0 Liverpool 0: Steven Gerrard’s final Merseyside derby ends in disappointing draw as boos ring out at Goodison Park | Football | Sport

Steven Naismith was a constant irritation to that defence while Kevin Mirallas worked tirelessly to drag Mamadou Sakho out to the touchline in order to create space.

For all the appreciation of his talents in the dying embers of his career in England, this is not a part of the realm which is easily persuaded to change their opinions.

In a way it could well have been the Toffees’ subconscious tribute to a man whom they will be glad to see the back of as he has lost only five derbies and only three men have scored more than him in cross-city clashes.

Liverpool dominated second-half possession but even with Daniel Sturridge on, having replaced Coutinho who was still feeling the after-effects of those challenges, they struggled to break down the Blues’ defence.

The loss of midfield linchpin Lucas Leiva after 15 minutes was a blow and gave Everton extra encouragement to press their opponents in a 4-3-3 formation, trying to isolate the Reds’ three centre-backs.

The Toffees had clearly identified Philippe Coutinho as the threat McCarthy received the first booking for going right through the Brazil international, who was then on the receiving end of another hard tackle from Muhamed Besic which left the playmaker in a heap.

Aaron Lennon, signed on loan from Tottenham on transfer deadline day, made his debut on the hour but apart from one skip past Sakho he could not impact the game.

After he had disappeared down the tunnel the Goodison PA system played Alesso’s Heroes, which includes the line “Everyday people do everyday things – but I can’t be one of them”.

The first half was evidence of that as Everton’s work-rate and organisation, coupled with Liverpool’s hastiness to impose themselves on proceedings, resulting in a bitty affair.

Everton made short shrift of their visitors’ free-flowing passing game with a compact defensive unit and hard work in midfield to ensure Gerrard left without the send-off he would have liked to have given Goodison Park.

The Reds midfielder was appearing in his 33rd and last encounter – unless the Europa League conjures up a grand finale – but it was not one of his more memorable.

In truth there was not a great deal of quality on show from either side, despite Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers giving exciting 19-year-old Jordon Ibe only his second league start and Everton fielding influential midfielder James McCarthy for the first time since December 28.

Even the occasion of his final Premier League Merseyside derby could not inspire Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard to more heroics as the 224th meeting of the clubs disappointingly finished goalless.

When Besic fell on Ibe, tried to hold him down and then swung a foot as the pair got up it provoked an exchange between Jordan Henderson and Naismith, which spread to the rest of the players, for which both were booked for doing very little.

Gerrard saw his bicycle kick deflected over by Naismith while Phil Jagielka blocked Sturridge’s shot on the turn from close range.

Gerrard had a free-kick tipped over by Joel Robles, who was beaten by Ibe but saved by the upright, but the Reds lacked decisiveness in the final third as they hesitated and over-complicated.

As is so often the case – last season’s 3-3 encounter here the stand-out exception – derbies have a great ability to ruin the spectacle purely because of what is at stake.

Ross Barkley, having been due to come on five minutes before half-time but eventually replaced Naismith five minutes from the end, produced the pass of the match with a raking crossfield ball to Seamus Coleman rampaging down the right but his shot was parried by Simon Mignolet.

Everton, who lost Leighton Baines to a knee injury earlier in the day, gave their visitors no chance to slot into the rhythm which has seen them recently re-establish their quick and smooth passing game.

The 34-year-old, who leaves for the Los Angeles Galaxy in the summer, was first to leave the pitch at the final whistle to a chorus of boos.

This clash is billed as the friendly derby but those involved will tell you it is anything but – Merseyside Police failed in its bid to have the 5.30pm kick-off changed despite raising concerns about the potential for disorder in the city after the game.

Amelia Woodward

Amelia Woodward

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