What looked to be a standard derby fixture early settled into one of the more frustrating viewing experiences in recent memory, as neither side were able to establish control in Saturday evening's draw. Jordon Ibe's first-half bullet off the far post and Seamus Coleman's deflected shot save well by Simon Mignolet represented the best---and really only--chances for Liverpool and Everton respectively, and any sense of momentum the visitors had on the back of three straight league wins was surely halted.
Injuries and fatigue no doubt played a part, with Lucas limping off on 15 minutes and Philippe Coutinho taken off fairly early in the second half in favor of Daniel Sturridge. Steven Gerrard began to show signs of tiring in the first half and failed to click in a more advanced position, while Raheem Sterling didn't have much of an influence centrally or when pushed wide after Sturridge's introduction.
Liverpool defended well for most of the match until Coleman's late chance, with Martin Skrtel and Mignolet the standouts. It was an uncharacteristically nervy day from Mamadou Sakho, however, who struggled to find an outlet at times and was caught in possession on a handful of occasions. His devotion to keeping the ball on the deck is generally a positive, but some smart pressing in numbers by the hosts overran him at times. Emre Can was better than Sakho but also susceptible to a few lapses, and at times he created danger for himself or others in defense to clear.
For what's typically a fiery derby it was relatively tame for long stretches, with the only real surge of energy coming partway through the second half after Jordan Henderson and Steven Naismith were involved in a brief spat. Things threatened to become watchable from there, but neither side had enough quality in the buildup, and for Liverpool, the introduction of Rickie Lambert for Sterling brought their play to a standstill going forward.
Ibe was mostly encouraging to go along with the solid play of Skrtel, Can, and Mignolet, and Alberto Moreno had his moments but was mostly quiet as well. Daniel Sturridge, whose exit from pre-match warmups led to speculation that he was injured again, could get anything going in place of Coutinho, and once again showed signs of rust while trying to work his way into the match. Joe Allen also struggled at times after coming on for Lucas, and Liverpool will need him to be much better if Lucas' injury rules him out beyond the weekend.
Any actual match-related narrative was overshadowed by the efforts to give Gerrard a warm sendoff, as it was clear early that sentiment dictated his selection and that he remained on the pitch, and other than a well-struck bicycle kick and curling left-footed effort he sent wide, he had no discernible positive influence on the match. It would have been lovely to see him get a goal in his final Merseyside derby, a fixture that's so often seen him elevate his individual game, but Brendan Rodgers' failure to take him off only hurt Liverpool.
Bringing on Lambert rather than Markovic was more of the same, both in terms of sentiment and the impact it had on the squad more generally. He managed a volley that was blocked and a tame shot rolled at Joel Robles, but otherwise there was no urgency in a match that was begging for it. Everton were largely content with a scoreless draw, and the continued presence of Gerrard along with the addition of Lambert sapped any energy Liverpool had left.
It's not surprising that Liverpool are worse without Sterling, Coutinho, and Lucas involved, but they need others to step up or be given the chance to do so. Recovery will have to occur quickly, as they'll face a Spurs side on Tuesday at Anfield that's in far better shape than they were when Liverpool eased to a 3-0 win in August. Defensively progress must continue, but through the midfield and forward areas Liverpool need far more than they produced today.