Tuesday 22 October 2019

Jurgen Klopp blames wind as Liverpool blow lead after a 'wild' derby draw

Everton 0-0 Liverpool

Seamus Coleman gets the better of Divock Origi. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Seamus Coleman gets the better of Divock Origi. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Jason Burt

To the extreme delight of Everton, maybe as much as Manchester City, Liverpool finally lost their advantage in the Premier League title race as a result of this tumultuous yet goalless Merseyside derby.

Not for the first time Jurgen Klopp blamed the wind; the blustery conditions inside Goodison Park, which he said, turned this encounter into "a wild game" and a "fight" which suited Everton more.

Frustration is the name of the game for Trent Alexander-Arnold. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Frustration is the name of the game for Trent Alexander-Arnold. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

But Liverpool are in danger of being accused of blowing the Premier League title race.

That is probably an extremely harsh assessment, given the extraordinary high standards that Liverpool and City are setting this season, and it would of course be dangerous to argue against Klopp's side.

Liverpool have lost just once - once - are only the 11th team in top-flight history to earn at least 70 points from 29 games, which is remarkable, and have also just recorded their fifth successive clean sheet in all competitions.

But the most pertinent fact is this: they are no longer ahead.

Mo Salah. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Mo Salah. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

The reality is that having been seven points clear at the turn of the year, Liverpool are now a point, even if it is just a point, behind City with each team having nine games to go.

It is the first time since December 7 that City are in front having played the same number of games and it feels like the Big Mo, the Big Momentum, has shifted to Pep Guardiola's side; at least for now.

Vital

The shame for Liverpool is that the 'Little Mo' was not at his best. Otherwise they would have claimed a vital victory.

Jurgen Klopp feels an icy chill at Goodison Park as he watches Liverpool struggle. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine
Jurgen Klopp feels an icy chill at Goodison Park as he watches Liverpool struggle. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine

Mohamed Salah failed to take the game's two best chances and that wastefulness seemed to sum up the state of Liverpool at present, with Fabinho and Sadio Mane also spurning opportunities.

They are not losing, but they are shedding points, having drawn four of their last six league games, and they need to hold their nerve as City have won nine of their last 10 and look increasingly ominous.

There should, however, be twists and turns even if Klopp inevitably cut a frustrated figure at the end.

He could do with shedding that body language.

For Marco Silva this was important. Very, very important.

The Everton manager has been under severe pressure, but has come back after a 17-day break with a win away to Cardiff City and this draw, collecting two clean sheets, and he also got what he demanded from the fans: a raucous atmosphere.

It is 19 games in this fixture - the longest run in its history - without an Everton win, but the result was celebrated like one, with the inevitable goading that Liverpool were going to end up winning nothing.

That atmosphere was a given, from the start at least, for the 200th Merseyside derby in the league, with a primal roar prior to kick-off and an exhortation to rattle Liverpool.

They did just that, even if there was a desperate edge to Everton for the first-half as the game was fast and frantic.

In fact, it was too fast and too frantic, with, as ever, Virgil Van Dijk providing the oasis of calm.

Possession was turned over constantly, the only breaks coming from a stream of fouls because of that relentless pace.

There was more of a tangible threat from Liverpool and the one clear chance came following another inevitable turnover as Morgan Schneiderlin failed to control the ball in the centre-circle.

Fabinho pounced, sending it first-time through to Salah, who ran clear on goal with Lucas Digne caught too far forward.

Salah had time, he had space, and he attempted to curl the ball left-footed around goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who did superbly well to shoot out a right hand and block the shot.

The rebound fell to the onrushing Jordan Henderson, but he was thwarted as Seamus Coleman threw himself to divert away his drive.

Everton's main approach appeared to be to try and play it long to lone striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, although that proved fruitless with Van Dijk so dominant.

So it had to change and, after the break, Silva was brave in pushing Gylfi Sigurdsson further forward and switching formation to a 4-4-1-1. The danger was it also made the game more open and, with that shift, it would be expected that Liverpool would create more.

They did. They just did not take their chances and, while that may be down to bad lack, there was also a lack of composure; a lack of drive, even, at times in a fixture they had to win.

When Joel Matip broke forward and threaded a pass through to Salah, it offered the Egyptian another sight of goal.

As with the first chance, it was one he would have been expected to take, but he delayed, allowing the outstanding Michael Keane to intervene with a challenge, poking the ball away.

Short

If Salah had scored it would have been his 50th Premier League goal in just 65 matches - and no player has achieved that quicker. But he did not and looked strangely short of confidence.

Soon after and Digne thwarted Fabinho, who had to shoot sooner, but made a mess of it after the ball bounced off his knee close to the Everton goal.

After Mane failed to direct a close-range header there was one final moment when Matip met a corner, but mistimed his header, with the ball squirming wide.

Everton created little, but, ultimately, deserved this point which to them, and City, felt like much more.

They have set a standard; Liverpool fell below theirs.

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