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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss