And so, 10 years to the day since Everton’s last win against Liverpool with the team looking better than they ever have during this decade, their wait for derby delight went on – but from the vantage point of being top of the table.
An engrossing Merseyside derby, shadowed by a comically poor decision, kept Carlo Ancelotti’s side at the summit and three points clear of their nemesis.
“I genuinely believed today would be the day that we’d do it,” Dominic Calvert-Lewin said of ending Everton’s lengthy winless streak in this fixture. “But in terms of the bigger picture,” he continued, “we didn’t lose and keep the unbeaten run going.”
Meanwhile, on the five-year anniversary of Jurgen Klopp’s first game in charge of Liverpool, his men illustrated one of the core characteristics he has infused in them: a strong response to setbacks.
They were annihilated 7-2 last time out by Aston Villa, their heaviest defeat in 57 years, but returned to intense, impressive type here. That after losing their best defender – who had played every minute of the prior 74 league games – before double digits were even on the clock.
Goodison derbies have been famed for being tense, dull affairs with seven of the last eight finishing goalless. Not in this season of insanity, however.
Inside 10 minutes, Andy Robertson had motored past Seamus Coleman and cut back for the ceaseless Sadio Mane to lift the ball into the top left. There was nothing Jordan Pickford could do.
Moments later, the goalkeeper did what he didn’t have to, adding to the extensive What Exactly Is England’s No.1 Thinking There? archive.
Virgil van Dijk tried to reach a corner delivery at the far post, but was aggressively scissored by the Everton stopper in a horrendous challenge. Both of Pickford’s legs were wrapped around the centre-back’s standing one, doing damage to what seemed to be his knee.
There was a break in play, but there was no red card. The VAR, David Coote, did not analyse the tackle, focusing instead on whether the centre-back had been offside.
His arm marginally was. Van Dijk’s leg could have been broken and there is every chance he now has a serious injury, but at least the offside review had been complete, the digital lines drawn.
For the longest while, what happened before and after this moment of madness faded into the background.
Two very good teams – Liverpool’s midfield, led by the returning Jordan Henderson, imperious in the first half, with Everton lighting up the first stanza of the second half – were involved in a very good tussle.
“It was a top game from both teams,” as Klopp assessed. “We were dominant against a side full of confidence with a clear plan. We played a really good game, our best away at Goodison since I am in Liverpool, but it is still 2-2 for different reasons…”
That this encounter will be framed by a major officiating error and question marks around offside calls is unfortunate.
Thiago paused time and manipulated space in a display of artistry. James Rodriguez once again revelled in his role as a reference point, dripping in class and delivering the corner which Michael Keane headed past Adrian to cancel out Mane’s opener.
The Senegal international was a menace in and out of possession. On the opposite flank, Mohamed Salah recorded his 100th goal for Liverpool in just 159 games across all competitions, becoming the third fastest after Roger Hunt (144) and Jack Parkinson (153) to reach a century for the club.
That was with 75’ showing on the clock and the clash looked designed for Everton to face further derby misery on the 10-year anniversary of their last win against their city foes.
But the final minutes mirrored the incident-packed opening. Calvert-Lewin, the highest scorer in Europe’s top-five divisions, continued his remarkable form and prowess in the air to head in Lucas Digne’s cross to the far post.
There was then a deserved red card, which failed to materialise for the incident in the opening 10 minutes.
Richarlison’s reducer on Thiago saw a fully warranted sending off, but the Brazilian was peeved with the call – perhaps he wondered how he walked, but Pickford was able to get away with worse.
At the death, the script writers were denied a narrative. Thiago had spread a wondrous no-look pass down the inside-left channel for Mane. The forward directed the ball across the face of goal, which Henderson struck to be helped in by… Pickford.
VAR judged Mane to have been fractionally offside despite the pictures showing otherwise. “The Henderson goal, I didn’t see offside, but maybe somebody can explain it to me?” Klopp asked the BT studio. No-one could.
And so it ended in another derby draw at Goodison – but at least it broke the cycle of being a goalless one.
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