Everton 2, Liverpool 2: Joke Decision Leaves the Points Shared

Clive Brunskill

An injury-time winner by Luis Suarez was waved off incorrectly for offside, leaving the points shared at Goodison in an intense Merseyside derby.

Everton 2: Osman 22', Naismith 35'
Liverpool 2: Baines (OG) 14', Suarez 20'

It's hard to write a conventional-seeming recap when most of what's worth talking about happened in the final minute, so let's at least acknowledge that up front. Everyone was onside when Steven Gerrard delivered a free-kick into the Everton penalty area in the 94th minute, everyone was onside when Sebastian Coates won the resulting header (legally, I might add), and everyone was onside when Luis Suarez stabbed home the winner past a helpless Tim Howard. These are the facts, and they are indisputable.

What's also indisputable is that Liverpool have been condemned by poor and, in many cases, just plain wrong refereeing decisions on a regular basis. Andre Marriner wasn't terrible today, and humans make mistakes and etc. etc., but today's incorrect call by the linesman was the latest in a long line of decisions that inspire more head-stratching and confusion than they do confidence in those responsible for any sort of objective management of Liverpool's matches.

In this case there's at least agreement on all sides that waving the goal off was the incorrect goal, or at least I think there's universal agreement. The only argument I've seen is that Coates committed a foul in winning the header, but he didn't, or that Suarez deserved it because he's a lousy diving twat with a bad reputation and he should have seen red for the foul on Sylvain Distin and his dive in front of David Moyes was stupid and Liverpool shouldn't have won the free kick anyway. I suppose there's some sort of justification for each of those, some of which aren't really tethered very strongly to reality, but in the end the fact is that Luis Suarez was onside, legally scored a winner, and all of that was erased by another terrible call from a referee.

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As for the rest of the match, there's actually quite a bit else to discuss, even if nobody's particularly interested in doing so. The talking points started pre-match, with Brad Jones staying in the side and Pepe Reina on the bench, and we found out later on that Reina wouldn't have been along had Peter Gulacsi been fit enough for inclusion. Glen Johnson was left out completely, with the substitution against Anzhi now proving to have been a fitness decision rather than rest, and it meant that Jose Enrique joined what was otherwise an unchanged eleven from Liverpool's last three matches.

It was frenetic and frantic from the outset, and somehow within the first twenty minutes Liverpool were up 2-0. They took the lead when Luis Suarez smashed a shot across goal that was deflected in off of Leighton Baines, and the Uruguayan added to the lead when he flicked a Steven Gerrard free-kick past Tim Howard. Both seemed too easy, and the first was marked by a Fowleresque celebration from Suarez, who sprinted back to the touchline and flopped in front of David Moyes, a callback to the manager's pre-match comments.

Even after the first you felt that Everton had to get back into the match, and while Liverpool were able to nick another within seven minutes, the hosts started their fightback on 22 minutes through Leon Osman, who struck a low drive off Joe Allen after Brad Jones' punch went straight to him. They were level just over ten minutes later, this time with Liverpool's defense content to watch the ball rather than pick anyone up, and Marouane Fellaini pushed one across goal that Steven Naismith and Nikica Jelavic looked to simultaneously scramble home, with the Scot getting the credit.

The second half saw significant--and encouraging--changes from Brendan Rodgers, with Jonjo Shelvey and Sebastian Coates coming on for Suso and Nuri Sahin and the team shape shifting to a 3-5-2 and Everton's threats mostly nullified. Both sides threatened at times, with Liverpool looking the more convincing despite the home side's danger from set pieces. A draw had been settled upon as an acceptable result before injury time arrived, but with the events of the 94th minute, it's hard to see how anyone could now be happy with the outcome.

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From a team and individual perspective, it wasn't the best performance from Liverpool, particularly in the first half. That seems strange given that it's when they got both of their goals, but they were too willing to concede possession and looked nervous, which is maybe what you get when there's three teenagers starting in key positions. Everton's goals were surprising, as they came in a manner all too familiar--errors at the back punished by an opposition who knows that enough pressure and pressing can break Liverpool right now.

The second half was far better, and it provided an answer to Brendan Rodgers' critics about the new manager having no Plan B. Switching to three at the back was drastic, but it proved to have a stabilizing effect on a shaky Liverpool, and while it wasn't perfect, it gave them a better chance to win. I doubt it's something that sticks, but for today, it was the right change, and one that it's nice to see given concerns about how Liverpool won't be able to find other ways to win matches if death by football doesn't work out.

To say that I'm angry and disappointed after that would be an understatement, and I doubt it leaves anyone in much of a mood to do anything other than curse and try to ignore everything. It wasn't pretty, but it should have been a win. With Liverpool struggling for points and failing to link performances with results, this was one they needed, and to have something more taken away after settling for something less is not a great feeling.

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