Brendan Rodgers’ final act as Liverpool boss was a 1-1 draw at Everton. Somewhat appropriately, a defensive blunder sealed his fate.
* And that’s it. Game over. Turns out that avoiding defeat wasn’t enough after all. Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool reign is over after a stalemate in the 225th Merseyside derby. He leaves the Reds with no trophies to his name but strong, if bittersweet, memories of THAT giddy season when the Anfield faithful were convinced the league trophy was coming ‘home’ after a 24-year wait. A manager for the good times, but not for the bad – as Daniel Storey independently wrote here.
* In isolation, there was little wrong with an away draw at an Everton team in decent nick, but there was little to lift Liverpool fans after letting another promising position slip. For the fifth time in the last six games, the Reds took a 1-0 lead and conceded an equaliser within 20 minutes. Yet again, they couldn’t land a blow in retaliation once they’d been pegged back. It looked a 1-1 stalemate from a long way out.
* Liverpool’s away record under Rodgers against the top four plus Everton ends like this: Played 18, Won 1, Drawn 9, Lost 8, For 21, Against 33. God, that was sh*t wasn’t it? It looks even worse when you consider that former Evertonian Slaven Bilic waltzed into West Ham and immediately notched up away wins at Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool, scoring seven goals in the process. See, it can be done. It’s just that Brendan couldn’t do it.
* Just to really annoy punters who had backed Rodgers as the next Premier League manager to leave his post, with just two minutes gone at Goodison the news came through that Dick Advocaat had done one from Sunderland. That’s the problem with those markets; however vulnerable you look, it’s so easy to be beaten to the punch.
* This was the sixth draw in the last seven Merseyside derbies so Everton have restored some parity, but they still can’t win one of these bloody things and it must drive their fans mad. Sunday looked a golden opportunity but they didn’t really do enough. Romelu Lukaku was a handful but Ross Barkley drifted about anonymously and they could never get up the head of steam that would have caused the Liverpool defence to wilt.
* That’s three goals in five games for Danny Ings. So, how good is he? I wrote here that he’s one of the reasons why Liverpool fans still have cause for optimism, and he joins Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres as LFC strikers who have scored on their Merseyside debuts. His nodded goal came just moments after he’d been blasted by Daniel Sturridge for not releasing a pass that would have put him clean through. That hints at an excellent attitude.
* Tim Howard can be a strange goalkeeper. After just four minutes, he raced out of his goal to tackle Ings with his feet, seemingly forgetting he played in goal and, you know, you can use your hands. He did it again later and, for the goal, he allowed Ings to simply head home when basically just standing around in the six-yard box. Perhaps he should have launched a karate kick if he’s so reluctant to use his hands.
* Before Sunday, Romelu Lukaku’s last nine goals for Everton had all come on the road so, if you like a bet, note that down as he’ll always be a bigger price when the Toffees are away. He likes playing against Liverpool either home or away though, and today’s clinical strike was the fifth in his last seven games against the Reds. That said, despite his physical presence, I’d put my money on Mamadou Sakho doing him inside two rounds if they got in the ring. Those eyes, Mamadou, those eyes.
* Ah, the Liverpool defence. Whether it be Sakho coming in for Lovren or switching to a back three, the result always seems to be the same. Someone does something calamitous and they concede a stupid goal. For starters, the otherwise impressive Alberto Moreno let Gerard Deulofeu get in an early cross from the right despite the Spaniard offering recent reminders against West Brom and Barnsley that it’s one of his strengths. Then, Emre Can compounded the error by hacking his clearance against Martin Skrtel, allowing Lukaku to fire Everton level. And yet the feeling persists that if a decent defensive coach (say, Rafa) had this lot to work with, Liverpool wouldn’t have just failed to keep a clean sheet for the eighth time in a row. Now, we’ll get the chance to find out.
* We’ve beaten this drum before but please, please stop expecting something funny to happen when Sakho gets the ball. Today’s stats? 40 passes and a passing accuracy of 97%. He also made a great intervention to stop a Lukaku surge into the box. Yeah, whatever, he looks a bit ungainly.
* Philippe Coutinho was on the fringes at Goodison and Liverpool’s creativity took a nosedive as a result. Why? James McCarthy did a job on him. When that happens, the Reds’ midfield looks impotent and devoid of ideas. Not a lot appears to be said when Jordan Henderson is missing but his absence was felt. Lucas? He did his usual cleaning up but, generally, if you set his performance to (samba) music, he’d be constantly just behind the beat.
* The Merseyside derby has seen more red cards than any other fixture in the Premier League era but why wasn’t that total added to today? Only Martin Atkinson knows. A deliberate trip is one of the least controversial reasons for showing a yellow card but Atkinson somehow decided he should let Lucas’ go.
Liverpool should have been playing the last 13 minutes with 10 men. With Rodgers quickly hauling off Lucas to replace him with Joe Allen, many will argue they did.
* When Aaron Lennon signed for Everton, did anyone ever sit him down and tell him the Beatles connection? Apart from the odd twist and shout of disappointment from a teammate (I’ve got more of these if you want them, but I’m guessing you don’t) he again did nothing to suggest he’ll ever be a headline writer’s dream in this fixture.
* Without the energy of Seamus Coleman and the poise of John Stones, Everton’s young defence could have been there for the taking. They wobbled when conceding twice at West Brom but against Liverpool they were generally excellent. Brendan Galloway looked composed at left-back, Argentine Ramiro Funes Mori and Phil Jagielka barely put a foot wrong and Tyias Browning was solid at right-back. Shame that Howard let them down.
* Nathaniel Clyne. He looks as if he should be really good but his best performance at Anfield remains the opening game of last season when he scored in Southampton’s 2-1 defeat. Most of Liverpool’s penetration comes down the left via Moreno and, for whatever reason, Clyne is still not the sum of his component parts.
* This was the first Merseyside derby without a Scouser in the Liverpool starting XI since the 1986 FA Cup final. An indictment of Liverpool’s academy system or, as Brendan put it, “just circumstance” following the departures of first Jamie Carragher and then Steven Gerrard. Do fans really care that much? It’s nice to have a local lad to cheer but that 1986 FA Cup-winning team remains the only Liverpool side to complete the Double so there probably wasn’t too much complaining back then.
* Picture the scene in the Reds’ dressing room at full-time. Brendan asks “Who thinks Klopp or de Boer could do better than me?” Hands slowly go up including that of Jean the cleaner. “That’s mental,” says Rodgers. “Come on.” But, as the number boffins might have pointed out, under Rodgers, Liverpool managed just 20 points from his final 17 league games. That’s not a million miles from a relegation battle. Sorry Brendan, not good enough. Maybe we’ll see you at the Christmas do?