Everton 0-0 Liverpool: Toffees stifle their local rivals as Reds fall behind in the title race 
(Getty Images - Chris Brunskill)

Everton 0-0 Liverpool: Toffees stifle their local rivals as Reds fall behind in the title race 

Jürgen Klopp's team dropped points at Goodison Park against their local rivals as they fall behind champions Manchester City in the title race. 

Joshua Kerr

The facts remain, but the reality still hurts that little bit more. Everton still haven't won a Merseyside derby since 2010, but this 0-0 stalemate will have felt so much more like a victory than a draw for the jubilant hosts. They played their part as the neighbourhood party poopers with the Toffees playing a significant role in preventing Liverpool potentially their own longer and sufficient wait for the league title.

Still, it is only March and there are certainly more twists and turns to unfold before the curtain is drawn come May. 

However, one thing still feels so crucially certain at this point. This marks the first real time since the turn of 2019 where the Reds have properly slipped behind Manchester City - without the notion of goal difference and games in hand to play its part.

It was a disappointing afternoon at a ground that lies just a two-minute walk from their own home fortress. Jürgen Klopp and his team ultimatley lacked ammunition up top with the misfiring Mohamed Salah squandering two of the games biggest chances. 

The latest stifle from their local foes means it's four draws in Liverpool's last six, but the worrying anecdote is that this was another hesitant and anxious display from the Reds.

However, credit must be given to Everton. The Blues were brave and combative and properly took the match to their common enemy. Liverpool looked rattled at times.

There was no major blunder from the last derby's pantomime villain Jordan Pickford, instead one big save from the shot-stopper and a host of Liverpool misses.

Neither was there a pitch invasion from their German manager Klopp who left the field this time tapping the Anfield cress to the travelling fans knowing that his supporters did their part. His players, this day, could not meet their end of the bargain.

A match that is typified by local pride and bragging rights lacked quality in its parts today. This was especially apparent in Liverpool's finishing - but a match so high on tension can do uncontrollable things even to the greatest of Athletes. This though only added to the drama of this enticingly entertaining instalment to Merseyside derby tales and of course the part it played in this season's title race.

The weight - or the burden to say - of carrying such illustrious title credentials took its toll on certain Reds players with misses from Fabinho and Joel Matip towards the end epitomising the visitor's rustiness on the day.

The story of the game    

The game's first real stand-out moment came on 29 minutes of a frantic opening exchange of events.

It also personified how a game so low on initial quality could be ignited by a rare chance or an infrequent moment when space finally opened up. 

The outstanding Jordan Henderson - who really rallied and organised his team on an afternoon where the midfield faded - dispossessed Morgan Schneirderlin and played a supreme pass over the top to the gaping Salah, but the Egyptian's first touch was the complete counterpart of such a quality pass.

The Red's top-scorer judged the touch wrong and miscued the ball far too wide, reducing the angle for the shot. Pickford, to his credit, played his role by reading the strikers run and making himself big and showed enticing patience. The England No.1 stood his ground, committed at the key moment and produced the game's outstanding save.

A complete contrast to the sheer apoplexy he would have felt at Anfield in December. Pickford showed real composure with the front-three constantly in his face with countless chaotic runs.

Pickford's blunder at his rival's ground did play have its effect on the goalkeeper's kicking with Pickford punting the ball up-long to Dominic Calvert-Lewin who by no fault of his own looked on the end of a childhood bullying drama when up against the imperious Virgil van Dijk who is surely a shoe-in for the PFA Player of the Year award. 

However, this was Everton's game plan. Lot's of force with not much thought. They played with emotion and heart and hoped the goods would follow.

If Salah's first miss left Klopp bemused on the sidelines then the second could have engulfed anarchy from his Liverpool boss. It only added fuel to the fire of a disturbing trend rather than just one of those opportunities every top European forward misses from time-to-time. 

Salah was once again put through - this time even closer to the Everton goal - and another ponderous touch gave the colossal Michael Keane time to storm back and intervene with a superbly timed tackle.

It only got worse for the lacklustre Reds. Assertiveness just wasn't there for the visitors. 

Tension continued to get the better of Liverpool, especially in the final 20 minutes when Van Dijk's firmly won header wasn't punished by Fabinho at the back-post.

It was one of those heart in mouth moments where you conclude it was just the wrong man, right time. The Brazilian wasn't urgent enough and his hesitant touch allowed Lucas Digne to intervene and clear. It became palpable that this game was beginning to elude Klopp and his players.

It ended up being the final defininf moment of the match. Roberto Firmino and James Milner were both introduced to real failed to add any spark or guile from the substitutes bench.

Klopp's fury finally reached boiling point when Mane had looked in place to let loose Salah only to play an utterly tepied ball into no-man's land.

Goodison erupted when Martin Atkinson blew his whistle for full-time as Everton's feroucious defending stifled Liverpool to their third consecutive league draw on the road. 

It wasn't the 'World Cup final' it was initially deemed to be. Although it could still be one of the more defining moments of the Premier League season.