In the moment, and now a few hours later, I'm still not completely convinced that Phil Jagielka's injury-time equalizer went in. I saw it leave his foot and I saw Everton players and supporters lose their minds, but what happened in between still boggles the mind. From thirty yards out, on the bounce, with a number of Liverpool players rushing at him, Jagielka--a central defender who poses little goal threat outside of set pieces--hit one of the purest strikes you'll see into the top corner of Simon Mignolet's goal to give Everton a point. Maybe.
Eventually that reality will crystallize, I think, though for now I'm still flirting with the possibility that his shot actually ended up somewhere near the middle of the Kop, and we're left to pat each other on the backs while talking about a hard-earned three points and how nice it is to talk about the need to improve after a win rather than on the heels of a disappointing draw or loss.
It's one of those perfect draw that feels like a loss moments given the timing, and, according to Brendan Rodgers, due to the fact that Liverpool were entirely comfortable for most of the ninety minutes despite their faults:
"It was very clear that we were much the better side today. When you concede a goal like that so late on, it epitomises the luck that went against us today. But I'm certainly very proud of the players. I thought the intensity was getting back up to near where we have been for 19 months. Tactically, I thought we were very good in the game. Any moments to defend, we defended very well. We took the lead, we should have arguably had at least two more and we should have had a penalty.
"It was disappointing, but I think the performance, which I'm clearly looking to at the moment, was at a much better level than we have been at. I never felt in any danger during the game. I think the organisation of the players was very good. They had good concentration. I always felt that with the ball we were a real threat going forward. But when you conceded so late on like that, into injury-time, it's a little bit frustrating."
He's not wrong. It was easily their best defensive performance of the season, aided by a midfield that midfielded, with standout performances from Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana leading the way. And while talk of luck and errors in judgment by the referee feels like excuse-making, Rodgers is more than justified in making mention of Martin Atkinson's inconsistencies and the long odds on Jagielka leveling the match in the manner he did.
It wasn't all misfortune and bounce of the ball and all that, though, and Rodgers' insistence on going with Balotelli alone up top, a tired Raheem Sterling wide, and a very green Lazar Markovic on the opposite flank rightly came into question. And while Lallana was one of Liverpool's best on the day, he and Sterling are now on 210-plus minutes apiece in the past five days, with a trip to Switzerland on the immediate horizon in the Champions League.
Options are scarce right now, but others were available--including Fabio Borini, who was left out of the squad, and Suso, fresh off an impressive cameo against Middlesbrough--and it would have been interesting to see how things had panned out if the manager had exercised them. In the end, though, it was a moment of magic from Jagielka rather than anything Rodgers did or didn't do that drew the match level, and we'll hopefully continue to see improvement from both the manager and the squad as a critical stretch in Liverpool's season gets underway.