Liverpool may not have lost the Merseyside derby but a scoreless draw with Everton could come back to cost them come season’s end.
Despite starting the weekend atop the Premier League table, and having just thumped Watford 5-0 midweek, Jurgen Klopp’s side couldn’t get going against their local rival on Sunday. Pitted against a team that has completely fallen apart since their last meeting in December, the Reds were unable to control a game that even their most pessimistic fans expected them to walk away with easily.
Liverpool were the better of the two sides, but that’s not saying much. Since losing the last matchup on a last-second blunder by keeper Jordan Pickford, Everton have a meager three wins, and never looked close to adding to that total on Sunday, failing to create a single clear cut opportunity on goal. But things weren’t much better for the Reds. Aside from a golden opportunity fluffed by Mohamed Salah in the first half, Liverpool’s vaunted front three didn’t trouble Pickford and his anxious backline.
Derbies, like rivalry games in college football, are notoriously unpredictable. Despite whatever high the favorite may be on, the underdog can be counted on to at least give their rival a game. But Sunday’s game wasn’t like that. It was hard fought, and clearly meant something to both sides, but neither side was good enough to create opportunities or take advantage of them. It was the rare game that neither side deserved to win.
But one gets the sense that won’t matter to Everton and their fans. By drawing with Liverpool, they delivered what could be a serious blow to their arch-rival’s bid to end a 29-year title drought.
Thanks to the draw, and the two points lost because of it, Liverpool have now been leapfrogged by Manchester City into first place. City briefly slipped into first last month, but only because they’d played more games. But now both teams have played 29 games and despite the fact that Liverpool are experiencing their most successful season in decades, they find themselves a point behind a City side that’s struggled to live up to the high standards it set for itself last season.
But Liverpool and its fans shouldn’t freak out just yet. While they may have given up their spot at the top of the table, nine games is a lot of time to make up a single point. Also, while the two teams have similarly easy schedules to close out the season, the matchup with Everton was Liverpool’s last tough road fixture, whereas City still have to play away at Manchester United in late April, giving Liverpool the slight edge.
While the game itself may have been forgettable, Sunday’s Merseyside derby might prove to be the most meaningful meeting between the sides in decades if Liverpool aren’t able to catch back up with City, Liverpool might just look back on this game as the one where the title slipped through their fingers.
Goal of the Week
Yan Valery, Southampton
Saturday’s 3-2 thriller between Manchester United and Southampton was chock full of goal of the month contenders, but Andreas Pereira and James Ward-Prowse’s strikes didn’t pack the same punch as Yan Valery’s opener. The 20-year-old received the ball outside the box halfway through the first half, took a touch, then reared back and fired a long-range missile right through the hands of a diving David de Gea. Usually, keepers get blamed when they get beaten like that, but Valery hit the ball so perfectly it’s unlikely anyone could have stopped it.
Return of the Week
Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City
Brendan Rodgers’ return to English football got off to a nightmare start on Sunday, as Leicester gave up a goal five minutes into the start of their new manager’s first game. But the Foxes fought their way back and tied things up thanks to a goal from Jamie Vardy. But the day wasn’t to have a happy ending for the former Liverpool and Celtic coach, as Vardy would eventually go down with injury and Watford got a goal in extra time to start Rodgers’ tenure with a loss.