As it turns out, Phil Jagielka's goal did count, and Liverpool were held to a draw yesterday with Everton. Upsetting to realize, but probably best for all involved that we start to move on. There was some bad but quite a bit of good as well, and I think most would agreed that Liverpool's performance was markedly improved from lackluster displays against West Ham and Aston Villa. Unsurprising given that this one came with an increased sense of occasion, but Liverpool responded well to growing criticism over the past few weeks.
For Steven Gerrard the critique on an individual and collective level demanded a response, and he feels that both he and the squad will continue to show marked improvements:
"I'll agree with the constructive criticism as far as I have been stifled in a couple of games when players have followed me about and I've found it difficult to shake them off. But then people go one step further and say you've finished and you can't run any more and you're done, and that's the frustrating thing. It was nice to remind people that although I am 34 I can still run, I can still play and I can still compete with the best players around.
"We need to improve, we are all aware of that. There has been a lot of change. We have lost possibly the best player on current form, so it's bound to hurt us for a little short while until the new players come in and settle and help contribute towards the team. The improvement will happen. There were big improvements today as far as our performance level was concerned. I said before the game we needed more intensity with and without the ball. We did everything right other than get over the line."
The best player on current form is also still banned another month, so yesterday they missed him about as much as they did Kenny Dalglish. What they're missing in attack is remedied by patience, time, and fitness; Mario Balotelli will surely look better with a fit Daniel Sturridge alongside him, and on-form performances from Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, and Adam Lallana should see Liverpool's attacking contingent among the best in the league. Right now Liverpool aren't getting those things for one reason or another, and they're rightly struggling because of it.
As for Gerrard, we'll see how he competes in the second half midweek against Basel and next Saturday against West Brom. Yesterday he was on a full week's rest and playing in a fixture that gets the best out of him; after an hour in Switzerland and with a quick turnaround at Anfield next weekend will be a better measure of his endurance and a good barometer for how, if at all, Brendan Rodgers handles his captain's fitness.