Liverpool 2-2 Everton: Kuyt penalty earns draw
Kenny Dalglish’s first game back at Anfield ended in an entertaining 2-2 draw.
He continued with the 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 system he used last weekend against Manchester United. Without Steven Gerrard, Jay Spearing made a rare start in midfield, whilst Glen Johnson started at left-back, as he did against Blackpool.
David Moyes went with a broad 4-4-2 shape with Victor Anichebe and Jermaine Beckford upfront. Steven Pienaar was absent with his imminent move away from the club.
It was, as they say, a game of two halves. Liverpool dominated the first period and had multiple chances, whilst Everton started the second half superbly and looked relatively comfortable when they were 2-1 up, before they also gave up the lead.
Liverpool’s shape was a cross between a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1. Lucas often appeared to be the sole holding player, shielding the defence with no specific player to mark, but sometimes Spearing would drop deeper alongside him, or even become the holding player himself, allowing Lucas to join attacks.
This meant that Raul Meireles was the furthest forward central midfielder, and he had one of his best games in a Liverpool shirt – no coincidence, seeing as he’s been used to playing in a three-man midfield (albeit in a slightly different role) for Porto for the past few seasons. His goal was a reward for a good all-round game.
Everton’s shape was also slightly uncertain – although on paper it was a pure 4-4-2, in reality Victor Anichebe drifted out to the left when his side lost the ball (as he did against Manchester City), where he dealt with Martin Kelly, Liverpool’s right back. This meant that Anichebe and Beckford rarely compared as a proper forward duo as Anichebe was rather stranded on the left.
Liverpool usually had an advantage in the centre of midfield and all three players in that zone had decent games, primarily because they kept it simple rather than trying ambitious passes – often, they simply used their advantage to work the ball around Marouane Fellaini and Mikel Arteta, who took it in turns to move right and left, but stayed relatively close together throughout.
Liverpool’s best attacking moves in the first half came when they then played the ball wide to Dirk Kuyt or Maxi Rodriguez, or played in Fernando Torres in the channels. There was little real creativity from the centre of the pitch, as Meireles barely played any passes from a true ‘playmaking’ position (that’s not really his natural game) but plenty of chances were created from wide positions.
It’s difficult to know what Everton changed in the second half to suddenly become the better side – it seemed to be simply because of momentum, having scored from a set-piece a minute into the second period. On that note, Liverpool have surely conceded more goals from corners with man-marking this season than they did with zonal marking last season.
Everton were more positive and played higher up the pitch (although again, there’s a chicken-and-egg question of whether they did this because they scored and therefore felt confident, or whether they scored because they were more positive) and Leon Osman was a bigger influence on the game when he moved into more central positions. His run through the defence created the second goal, for Beckford.
Maxi Rodriguez won the penalty for Kuyt to convert, and the Argentina winger got himself into dangerous positions throughout the game, having four efforts on goal in addition to being brought down by Tim Howard. He also completed 25 of 28 passes and drifted into the centre of the pitch, opening up space for Johnson, who had a good game at left-back and (despite being forced to come back inside onto his stronger foot) put the cross in that eventually resulted in Meireles’ goal.
At 2-2, it seemed neither manager wanted to lose the game – neither really made an effort to push their side forward for a third goal. That’s understandable – Moyes was away from home, Dalglish wouldn’t have wanted a P3 L3 record. Moyes introduced three new players but this seemed more about keeping Everton’s energy up rather than changing the game, whilst Dalglish brought on Jonjo Shelvey for Meireles, but didn’t gamble on Ryan Babel late on despite having one substitution remaining. There was only one shot in the final 15 minutes – a Torres chip over the bar.
A game that had various patterns – Liverpool dominated at points, Everton dominated at points, but neither did so for long enough to feel aggrieved at the result.
The game was played at a good tempo, helped by Liverpool’s inclination to press high up the pitch since the change of manager, and yet there weren’t the crunching challenges we usually see in this fixture (probably thanks to the absence of Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Tim Cahill) – it was a relatively free-flowing game.
There was no real ‘key factor’ here – simply two sides playing different shapes, but both not quite clicking with the ball – despite the four goals.