The Warm Down: Frustrated Reds hand Manchester City title race advantage after Everton stalemate
Fabinho and his Liverpool teammates left Goodison Park frustrated (Photo credit: David Blunsden, Getty Images)

The Warm Down: Frustrated Reds hand Manchester City title race advantage after Everton stalemate

After much fanfare, the ‘World Cup final’ at Goodison Park ended in a tie as title-chasing Liverpool squandered a series of chances.

Matt Addison

Liverpool missed the chance to return to the top of the Premier League table this afternoon following their goalless draw at Goodison Park in the Merseyside derby.

After a scintillating, calculated demolition of Watford midweek, it was expected that the Reds would press on from that performance and build further on their title ambitions; Everton, though, had other ideas.

Backed by a raucous Goodison Park crowd, the Blues began the game with intent. In many ways, it was a typical derby contest, replacing a lack of quality with a ferocious and frenetic tempo.

As much as Everton will be delighted to have taken points off their title-chasing rivals, Liverpool largely have themselves to blame.

To go from clinical to profligate in the space of five days will be a real disappointment for Jurgen Klopp. Having seen his side dismantle the Hornets with such ease, the German will now be bracing himself for questions over his player's bottle once again.

Four draws from six in all competitions does not make brilliant reading, no matter the opponents.

As much as the fact that Manchester City lead the Premier League title race for the first time in 2019 will concern him, the lack of a performance under the pressure of the title run-in will be the more significant cause for alarm.

The extent to which Liverpool's performance level dropped from Wednesday to Sunday can be partially attributed to the derby factor – Everton were desperate to dent the Reds’ title hopes – but missed chances were the real explanation.

The visiting side created more than enough to comfortably get the three points, but were simply unable to convert.

Salah fails to make his mark

The chief culprit was Mo Salah, still stuck on 49 Premier League goals for the club since he signed from AS Roma in 2017, as he squandered multiple opportunities to score himself or set up a teammate.

For someone of his clear world-class ability, games of this magnitude provide the perfect platform for him to take a match by the scruff of the neck, yet he was unable to do so.

The Egyptian’s overall game was generally good, missing only the final, most important, touch. The final touch, though, is the only one that gets remembered.

There is no doubt that he will have to add to his 17 league goals this season between now and May if his team are to push all the way.

Mane misfires

Salah was far from alone in his wastefulness: fellow forward Sadio Mane, scorer of two delightful goals from the number nine position on Wednesday at Anfield, was largely cut out of proceedings.

If against Watford he was electric, on this occasion someone forgot to plug the Senegalese in.

Divock Origi was pushed out wide to accommodate him through the centre, and it worked a treat just days ago, but the repeat experiment failed to produce the same results.

Mane has already beaten his personal best for the number of league goals in a single campaign for the Reds, but never looked like adding further to it on the same ground he scored a stoppage-time winner in last season.

Nearly, but not quite

Everton’s vulnerability from set-pieces was not exploited by Liverpool, nor was a general nervousness in possession.

Like most elements of Liverpool's play, their press was effective to a point, but never quite did enough to get over the line.

Kurt Zouma and Michael Keane were there to be got at, but were allowed to just about cling on.

At the other end, the Reds were in little danger of conceding, with Virgil van Dijk at his imperious and dominant best.

The Dutchman commanded everything from the penalty area to his partner, Joel Matip.

Matip produced a typical performance: for every dazzling dribble out from the back that threatened to create something, there was a pass or movement that made teammates and onlookers wonder what exactly he was attempting to do.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a pest of a striker who will chase, harry and hassle defenders at every opportunity, was expertly dealt with by Van Dijk, who was more than his match.

The narrative that will be unpicked in the coming days was one of frustration for Liverpool; a game of nearly, but not quite.

Chance after chance went begging, and it is now advantage Pep Guardiola and Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

With nine games remaining, there are plenty of twists and turns still in the pipeline, but the 233rd Merseyside derby proved to be a missed opportunity for Liverpool – or more accurately, several missed opportunities.

Klopp's substitutions will no doubt be the subject of some debate –bringing Adam Lallana on ahead of Naby Keita or Xherdan Shaqiri was a surprise to some – but it was not the manager's fault that his side failed to convert a series of big chances.

After the 5-0 hammering of Watford hinted Liverpool were not feeling the pressure, Everton have successfully thrown a spanner into the works.