It was all about consolations amid the belated excitement of this encounter, not least for those at Anfield who can breathe a sigh of relief that their side can not be pipped to a place in Europe next season by their nearest and dearest. But it was also an afternoon of controversy as Phil Jagielka's disallowed goal 16 minutes from time had Everton's manager, David Moyes, encroaching a couple of yards on the pitch in a mixture of frustration and fury.
The Everton camp, also convinced that Howard Webb denied them a blatant penalty against West Ham United recently, departed for home rueing the decision of England's World Cup referee to uphold an offside call from his assistant.
Moyes sent his assistant, Steve Round, to the post-match press conference to peddle the view that Victor Anichebe might have been standing offside but was still harshly flagged. "We thought it was a perfectly good goal," Round said. "We can't see why it should be disallowed."
Everton's powerful post-Christmas surge of 11 wins from 18 League games needed to become one of 13 from 20 if they were to retain any hope of a seventh-place finish and a passport into Europe for the fourth successive season. And Moyes was convinced the door was still open following Mikel Arteta's outswinging right-wing corner. Jagielka climbed above Rory Delap to send a header in off Asmir Begovic's outstretched hand, but Everton's celebrations were cut short.
Whatever their complaints, Everton often needed to defend resolutely for the draw that equalled a club record of 10 Premier League games undefeated and extended their run of unbeaten meetings with Stoke to 11.
Following a turgid opening half, by far the game's clearest opportunity was squandered by Stoke two minutes after the interval. Ricardo Fuller, Mamady Sidibe and Matthew Etherington carved Everton apart, only for Delap, in yards of space, to sidefoot wide from near the penalty spot.
Having weathered substantial pressure, Everton pushed hard for a winner. The ubiquitous Anichebe volleyed at Begovic from an improbable angle, appealed for a penalty when grappled round the shoulders by Ryan Shawcross and curled the ball inches wide with the keeper floundering.
The forward's knack of popping up where he wasn't wanted, as well as where he was, surfaced earlier when Leighton Baines cut inside from a short corner and saw his right-foot shot blocked not by a goalkeeper making his full debut but by an apologetic Anichebe, who was ducking unsuccessfully in a congested six-yard area.
Tony Pulis has found himself fighting unexpected fires in recent weeks, although his Stoke side remain well placed to better the 45 points with which they finished their first Premier League season 12 months ago. The manager preached the virtues of togetherness in his programme notes without referring directly to the divisions that have sprung up in his dressing room and handed Shawcross a first start since the furore over the broken leg suffered by Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey here in February. He made him captain no less, for only the second time, on an afternoon on which the defender also received three Player of the Year awards.
Shawcross's selection was brought about by the absence through injury of regular skipper Abdoulaye Faye, whose dressing-room row with Glenn Whelan at last weekend's 7-0 humiliation at Chelsea was leaked by a Brit-annia Stadium insider. Pulis smiled when asked whether the mole would divulge anything further. He can afford to. Stoke have had another good season. "We're hoping to have the opportunity to move players out and bring others in," the manager said. "But we have to do it in small steps."
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the match: Fuller
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content