Lukaku strike forces Liverpool and Everton to split spoils on derby day
Liverpool picked up a much-needed point away at Goodison Park, ending evenly at 1-1 with local rivals Everton, and drawing for the third Merseyside derby in row.
This Mersey match-up began in typically frantic fashion, with Liverpool’s midfield frequently threatening to unpick the Toffees tight defensive line.
Dangerous Daniel Sturridge was gifted a slick opening within minutes and, after the Englishman’s recent attacking exploits, many would have backed the marksman to dispatch past Tim Howard. Everton backline enforcer Phil Jagielka has been in equally imperious form, however, and crucially cut-out the chance.
The Reds continued to probe, with Philippe Coutinho and James Milner combining wonderfully, though the latter could not beat Howard to the Brazilian playmaker’s lovely lofted ball. While, there was a typically heated scuffle as Emre Can and Ross Barkley squared-up following a sweeping tackle from the Germany international.
Roberto Martinez’s men grew into the game, though, and much-maligned goalie Simon Mignolet ended up the hero of the half, twice denying the Toffees in quick succession.
A one-glove save from a close-range Steven Naismith header was stopped superbly, as Mamadou Sakho let the Scot slip away at a set-piece, with the Belgian custodian later keeping out a James McCarthy strike despite being unsighted.
It was Danny Ings who finally broke the deadlock just before the break. Perhaps celebrating his recent England call-up, the predator was left criminally unmarked by compatriot Barkley in Everton’s box, and crisply nodded in an easy header from Milner’s curling corner.
Liverpool’s lead did not last for long, however, as lethal Romelu Lukaku also proved his poaching worth. Key in bullying the Reds off the ball several times, the strong striker struck in added time after the visitors allowed a loose ball to ping around the area, giving Everton a boost ahead of the break.
Aaron Lennon’s arrival for Everton in the second half saw an injection of speed for the hosts, but the winger’s first foray forward, which resulted in a lovely low cross, was missed terribly by his Toffees teammates.
Yellow cards were dished out for Lucas Leiva and McCarthy as the game began to gather momentum again. The stretching of play meant Barkley was finally ably to break and run at Liverpool’s backline on the counter, which had the Reds’ rearguard backtracking, though his well-hit strike just bounced wide.
Lennon later fed Lukaku, but the Belgian was upended by Sakho in the box, with the Frenchman’s last-ditch effort adjudged not to have been a foul.
In the closing stages, both clubs expectedly propelled up the pitch, scurrying in search of a late winner, but neither side could pounce on the raft of mistakes. Liverpool leave disappointed, but the blue half of Merseyside may have reason to rejoice, as this result leaves Everton ahead of Arsenal on goal difference, before the Gunners face Manchester United this afternoon.