Everton and Liverpool settled for a 1-1 draw in the Merseyside derby Sunday afternoon, but the result is unlikely to ease the pressure on Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. Fielding a makeshift back four due to injury, Everton nonetheless looked the better of the sides for long spells. While both goals game off dreadful defensive errors, you did get the sense that things on the blue side of town are in better shape.
This match, the sixth draw in seven games between the sides, wasn't a must-win for Rodgers, but it was a chance to show that the Reds had managed to finally gel. Unfortunately, they haven't: Liverpool look a team of expensive strangers, and the boos are likely to be out again at Anfield next week.
Phil Jagielka, Everton's defensive anchor, had to be alert to cut out a cross from Martin Skrtel with Daniel Sturridge looking to get onto the end of an 8th minute chance as Liverpool created the early pressure on Tim Howard's goal. Two minutes later Jagielka had to be good again as Danny Ings tried to get on the end of chip forward deep on the left. Ings then fired an open look over from 17 yards on the top right as Liverpool continued to dominate the fast-paced, frantic opening 15 minutes.
Without creating much at the other end, Everton did finally get a partial grip on things after the 20th minute, but Liverpool were still moving much quicker and looking far more dangerous whenever they burst forward. James Milner was in on top of Howard in the 25th minute but ran out of a shooting angle allowing the American goalkeeper to turn his attempt away for a corner.
As is so often the case, having absorbed the early pressure, Everton finally began to get something going at the other end. The best chance of the match immediately fell to the Blues, Steven Naismith getting on the end of a Ross Barkley free kick to power a header that brought a fine, one-handed touch-over from Simon Mignolet. That came in the 28th minute and was the first sign of any pressure on the Liverpool defense. Two minutes later Mignolet had to react at the last moment to one-hand away a drive from James McCarthy.
Tempers boiled over in the 35th minute when Emre Can and Barkley exchanged some shoves before they were separated by cooler heads. Referee Martin Atkinson showed yellow to both participants in the tussle.
Liverpool finally broke the deadlock four minutes before the break when Ings got between defenders, directly behind Barkley who did not read the flight of a Milner corner correctly. That left the Reds' striker with an open header that he powered down to the near right corner.
But the lead didn't last to the interval because Romelu Lukaku was on the spot to profit when Can tried to clear a cross from the right, only to see his attempt hit Skrtel and pop up perfectly for the Everton striker to drive home a close-range goal in first half stoppage time. There was a hint of good fortune about the opportunity, but Lukaku made no mistake when given the chance.
The second half was a scrappier affair with few chances but the wind was in Everton's sails. Tyias Browning was unlucky to see his free header off a corner deflect over the bar; Barkley and Lukaku then both forced Mingolet into fine saves. Liverpool rarely tested Howard in the half with Everton finding joy down both flanks against a nervous-looking Liverpool back line.
Lukaku continued to be a nuisance as time wore down, but his forays were too often solo efforts. Tempers flared again in the final minute Lukaku and Mamadou Sakho clashed in the penalty box, but there was little of that same fire seen in the teams' attacking play as the game sputtered out.