Liverpool fans were expecting to see some fireworks when the rested Reds restarted their Premier League campaign against local rivals Everton in the Merseyside Derby on Sunday evening. Instead, they got something a little more drab.
There was promise in the first half, with Liverpool dominating possession and linking up well as they sought to break down their opponents, but rather than their opponents tiring in the second half it was the Reds who seemed to lose a step.
The good news, of course, is that they still have eight matches left to earn the five points they now need to mathematically wrap up the title. And that, knowing this group, Sunday’s middling performance will motivate them to do better.
“We can be a lot better of course,” captain Jordan Henderson said. “We tried to adapt to the situation but overall obviously we are disappointed because we wanted to come here and get the three points. But there are still plenty of positives.
“The intensity was pretty good with the counter-pressing. I thought that was good. We were unlucky with a couple of injuries and hopefully they are not too bad. Overall, we’ve just got to take it, move on, and try to be better in the next game.”
In retrospect, perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising. No matter fitness levels, Liverpool were never going to be sharp after three months off—the longest many of these players will have ever gone without playing a competitive match.
Add in that manager Carlo Ancelotti—both at Napoli and now at Everton—has shown a real knack for setting up his sides to frustrate Jürgen Klopp’s Reds, and Sunday’s derby may have always had a nil-nil scoreline as its likeliest outcome.
In which case there’s really nothing to do but shrug, take the point for what it is—a chance to get a little closer to full match fitness for the players and another clean sheet for the defence—and look ahead to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
“Overall there’s still a lot of positives,” Henderson added. “Like I said, in the final third I think we can be a little bit better and more clinical but we’ll get ready now for Wednesday. Every game and each team in the Premier League is tough.
“You look at our next game against Crystal Palace, who performed well on Saturday, so every game we play will be tough. We’ve just got to perform as best as we can and try and win as many games as we can.”