As an extra source of satisfaction in the blue half of the city, Gary Speed's equaliser, scored eight minutes from time, stopped Liverpool from going top of the table. No wonder Royle had a smile the size of the Mersey tunnel at the end.
It was a frustrating result for Liverpool, who could have won this match and overtaken Newcastle but in the end were relieved to have got a draw thanks to Robbie Fowler's ninth goal in eight matches. Again points were squandered for the want of a decisive blow.
"It was a tough old game," Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, said. "We had a few chances but in the second half we lost the plot. We forgot to pass the ball, kept giving away possession. It's something that has happened in the last few matches."
This was the 155th League meeting of these clubs and this one began as all of living memory have. The players barely paused for breath and the tackles were sharp as the icy wind. Tribal loyalties overcome all other considerations on these occasions and the Everton fans were moved to sing the unthinkable, "Ooh, Aah Cantona" just to irk the Kop.
Everton, fresh from the 7-1 massacre of Southampton, also began with impudent style, but whereas the opening stages were dominated by Graham Stuart and Nick Barmby the key figures as the first half progressed became Stan Collymore and Fowler.
The balance tipped towards the Reds with Collymore's introduction for the injured Steve McManaman, and if the ball had bounced as firmly in their favour they might have reached the interval with something more substantial than a 1-0 lead.
After 23 minutes Jason Mc-Ateer had a "goal" disallowed because the ball had gone out. Two minutes later Stig Inge Bjornebye's cross was met at the far post by Mark Wright whose header was cleared off the line by Speed.
Cracks were appearing and the resistance broke in the 30th minute. Again Bjornebye's corner stretched the Everton defence and although Dave Watson cleared the immediate danger, the damage had been done when Jamie Redknapp probed the penalty area with a second cross. The ball fell to Fowler who leapt prodigiously to thump the ball into the top corner with his head.
Having resisted what comes naturally, starting with Duncan Ferguson, there was no way Royle would maintain this self-denial and the Scottish striker duly appeared at the start of the second half, coming on for the flu-stricken Andrei Kanchelskis.
This proved decisive because Everton dominated possession after the interval as Liverpool had before it. They pressed forward to an extent that the home side were restricted to isolated raids, creating only two opportunities, a header from Collymore that Neville Southall tipped round and another from John Barnes that flew just wide.
Everton were on top and their hard work paid off in the 83rd minute when Speed, neglected by the Liverpool defence, headed in Hinchcliffe's free- kick.
By the end the Liverpool rearguard was a mess and but for a goal-line clearance from Bjornebye and a diving save from David James that stopped Ferguson Everton would have got all three points. "You can't be disappointed with a draw at Anfield," Royle said. "We could have won it. It was a good performance. The signs are bright."
Not for the first time in a Merseyside derby the match had Royle approval.
Liverpool (3-5-1-1): James; Wright, Ruddock, Matteo; McAteer, Redknapp, Thomas, Barnes, Bjornebye; McManaman (Collymore, 16); Fowler. Substitutes not used: Babb, Berger, Kennedy, Warner (gk).
Everton (4-4-1-1): Southall; Barrett, Watson, Unsworth, Hinchcliffe; Kanchelskis (Ferguson, h-t), Parkinson, Grant, Speed; Barmby; Stuart. Substitutes not used: Short, Branch, Allen, Gerrard (gk).
Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).Reuse content