Everton vs Liverpool match report: No fairy tale ending for Steven Gerrard in final Merseyside derby as teams play out goalless draw

Everton 0 Liverpool 0: Ibe provides rare thrilling moment as Merseyside clubs’ collision fails to live up to grand billing

Click to follow
The Independent Football

When it comes to writing his memoirs, Steven Gerrard’s final Merseyside derby will probably rate a sentence and the Liverpool captain might have to be prodded to recall it. The match would pale in comparison with his first, a 3-2 victory at Anfield which saw him, wearing the No 28 shirt, clear off the line from Danny Cadamarteri.

Whatever Roberto Martinez has achieved at Everton – and it is quite a lot – he is yet to beat Liverpool and this was perhaps the weakest of the three draws he has achieved against Brendan Rodgers.

At Anfield there had been the glorious finale of Phil Jagielka driving a wildly improbable shot past Simon Mignolet and the last encounter at Goodison saw Everton denied at the death in a breathless 3-3 draw. The final whistle here elicited not boos but the faint sound of shoulders being shrugged through overcoats.

It was that kind of night. Everton pressed towards the end with Seamus Coleman denied by Mignolet and there was nearly a fight.

Sometimes these intense, local turf wars are belittled as two bald men fighting over a comb. It wasn’t quite that but it was a dust-up between two men who glance interestedly at the hair replacement ads fronted by Shane Warne. No Liverpool manager since Roy Hodgson has lost a Merseyside derby and there was little real danger of Rodgers joining him but for Gerrard it was no way to say goodbye.

Given that no major derby will ever again kick off at 3pm on a Saturday, it was better that it was played, against the wishes of Merseyside police, under Goodison’s floodlights. The stadium was a stage and the city had all day to prepare for what was to come.

Naturally, from the moment he led Liverpool out, the cameras followed every step of Liverpool’s captain.

Jordon Ibe played well in a shock start - firing a shot back off the post

The problem with someone of Gerrard’s stature announcing his departure five months before he leaves is that every remaining match is seen through the prism of his going.

Sir Alex Ferguson suffered much the same when he announced his aborted retirement from Manchester United at the start of the 2001-02 season. He quickly tired of the questions of how he felt about visiting each ground for the last time. He was a fan of Frank Sinatra but he didn’t fancy going out like him in a vast farewell tour. One afternoon at Athens Airport, which in an hour was to become paralysed in the aftermath of 9/11, he said he could stand no more questions on the subject. Will Gerrard feel the same?

Naturally, he would be given free rein to take every free-kick Liverpool were awarded. His first skimmed Joel Robles’ crossbar but, despite the fact Rodgers played him in an advanced  role, Gerrard was less influential than Everton might have feared until early in the second half when he launched into an overhead kick, that struck Steven Naismith on the forehead and careered over the bar.

The closest Liverpool had come to a breakthrough before the interval was from the boots of a footballer at the beginning rather than at the finish of his career. It says something for Jordon Ibe’s precociousness that, although he is not yet 20, he has been playing first-team football since he was a 15-year-old with Wycombe.

His performances for Derby and Liverpool’s weaknesses in attack had persuaded Rodgers to recall him from a loan deal and he turned Bryan Oviedo both ways before sending a shot crashing on to Robles’ post. The Costa Rican was so bemused that he had his back to his man when Ibe shot. He at least had a good view.

Raheem Sterling battles with Seamus Coleman

With Gareth Barry, perhaps his most naturally reliable player, wantonly surrendering possession, Roberto Martinez’s advantages appeared to become more limited as the match wore on and Liverpool raised the stakes by introducing first Daniel Sturridge and then Ricky Lambert.

There was Romelu Lukaku, although Martin Skrtel, aided and abetted by the offside flag, dealt with him effectively enough while Kevin Mirallas troubled Joe Allen, brought on for the injured Lucas Leiva, until Martinez withdrew him in favour of Aaron Lennon. The winger had caused something of a stir in the wake of his transfer from Tottenham by posing for official club photos in which he looked as excited as a footballer might be had they been told they were joining Shakhtar Donetsk in the January window.

Suddenly, the match came to resemble the photographs as Jordan Henderson and Naismith squared up to each other after an incident involving Muhamed Besic. A fight almost broke out, a football match very nearly did.

Everton (4-3-3): Robles; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Oviedo; McCarthy, Barry, Besic (Alcaraz, 86); Mirallas ((Lennon, 60), Naismith (Barkley, 85), Lukaku.

Liverpool (3-4-3): Mignolet; Can, Srktel, Sakho; Ibe, Henderson, Lucas Leiva (Allen, 16), Moreno; Gerrard, Sterling (Lambert, 82), Coutinho (Sturridge, 56).

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Man of the match: McCarthy (Everton)

Match rating: 5/10