James Lawton: Carragher's final hurrah cast into shadow by bout of penalty-box 'wrestling'

The game offered few suggestions it would be a contest

Jamie Carragher can carry many plaudits from his last Merseyside derby and maybe one of the most enduring is the assessment offered by the World Cup-winning full back George Cohen.

It came at that time when Carragher became disaffected in his often unrewarded effort to become an integral part of the England team.

Cohen said: "It's a pity that his international career has ended like this because I've long held the opinion that he is possibly the best pure defender in the country. A lot of players gain more attention because they are flashier on the ball but the thing about Carragher is that he has really learned how to defend."

Now the years have eroded such distinction, it is maybe a duty to remember that what we had in yesterday's inconclusive battle was rather more than a major eruption of folklore around the superbly committed career of Carragher.

We had a most significant football figure limited to some extent by the nature of his football times. His content was rather more than ornamental, or self-advertising, and maybe at a pivotal stage of his career he suffered for that.

Something of the same might be said of the man who should have collected the spoils yesterday, if not on the balance of play but the old truth that legitimately scored goals should decide any game. This might also have been the last derby of Everton manager David Moyes after 11 years of fighting various accumulations of odds.

Certainly it was impossible to pick an argument after his assertion that: "I don't want to sound like a whingeing manager but we scored a legitimate goal. It should have counted."

It should indeed. That it didn't was maybe another prime example of some of the random injustices that are so randomly inflicted in today's football.

Referee Michael Oliver's decision to rule out Sylvain Distin's header would have been bizarre in most circumstances but yesterday's were a terrible indictment of the mayhem that has so progressively taken over the penalty areas of English football on the occasion of a set-piece.

The foul went against Victor Anichebe when Pepe Reina collided with him in the routine melee. It was an arbitrary call by any standards but what made it particularly outrageous were the preliminaries. The Everton forward had been required to fight off the utterly routine grappling of Liverpool defender Jose Enrique. None of that molestation was, of course, deemed worthy of censure. This was because it was utterly routine and as long as it remains so football displays a scarring which can only be healed by concerned action.

It is 21 years since the old back-pass to the goalkeeper was banned in the wake of a catastrophically dull World Cup in Italy on the grounds that it was disfiguring the game. Defenders were no longer required to defend honestly. They passed the ball back to the goalkeeper with a dismal frequency. It was a corruption of the game – and so is the wrestling of today.

That certainly had to be the overwhelmingly depressing conclusion of a derby game which offered only spasmodic suggestions that it might graduate into a genuinely red-blooded contest. For this, a number of players could be freed from all responsibility, including the two best performers on the field, Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Everton's frustrated match-winner Distin.

If both are at that point of their careers when the shadows tend to appear they still managed to give the working impression that they might just play on forever. Distin suffered badly after a devastating mistake in the Wembley FA Cup semi-final last spring which opened the gates to Liverpool but yesterday he was a figure of immense serenity.

With Phil Jagielka, Distin was a brilliant obstacle to the best of Liverpool's invention, which centred on the authority of Gerrard's passing, the movement of Daniel Sturridge and the growing evidence that in the young Philippe Coutinho manager Brendan Rodgers has happened upon a source of both intelligence and sharp creativity. Unfortunately, none of these elements conspired to produce a game likely to linger in the memory.

There was, in the end, just the sense that Carragher could hardly have gone out of the derby action displaying any more of the competitive passion that had distinguished his career – and an equally impressive reminder of the work of Moyes. Victory would have cemented the manager's achievement of finishing above Liverpool in successive years, a landmark last reached 50 years earlier. As it is, Everton's five-point lead with just two games left for both clubs looks both utterly secure and a completely inadequate measurement of the extent of his achievements.

Moyes has been relentless in the demands he has made on his players and the result has been a wonder of over-achievement by a club so outgunned in all resources but those of recurring professional character. What the man who declared that Everton were the "people's club" when he arrived on Merseyside does now should be a matter of fierce interest in all walks of the football life.

In the meantime, though, we can be sure that his club will fight on under his command quite as long as it lasts. It is the least tribute we can give a football manager of both impeccable professional values and unrivalled stamina in what many rivals might have considered an impossible task some years ago.

Such achievement was never going to be touched by either victory or defeat yesterday. However, that was no reason to dismiss the injustice of at least one result.

Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need