Yesterday, the stage was set for the first real derby of the season in the Premier League, the Merseyside Derby. It was a contest between reigning Premier League champions, Liverpool and high flying Toffees.
The match promised so much no thanks to the form of Everton which had seen them garner 12 points from 4 games and of course, everyone expected an immediate response from Liverpool following their humiliating loss at Villa Park and yes it did not disappoint. It was not a drab draw but a nail biting and hard fought 2-2 draw that could have finished in Liverpool’s favor had the VAR not interrupted proceedings by chalking off Jordan Henderson’s goal sighting offside.
For Liverpool, they had back one of their important stars, Sadio Mane and his return paid off as he scored under 3 minutes, the fastest goal in a merseyside derby but their frailties at the back continued and was even compounded. Allison Becker who has been on the sidelines with no timeframe scheduled for his road back to full recovery has now been joined by star defender, Virgil Van Dijk who limped off in the 11th minute after a collision with Everton’s goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford. His injury is definitely a blow to the Reds and it stands to be seen how long they would have to cope with his absence. According to Jurgen Klopp, the injury to the former Saint is not good!
“Virgil played I don’t know how many games in a row, he plays with pain, he plays with pretty much everything but he couldn’t play on. That’s not good.”
With that injury, the Dutch defender looks set to miss the midweek Champions League clash against Ajax Amsterdam and that is definitely a blow, Klopp would have to find a way of mitigating. Early reports have it that he could have ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and could be out for 7-8 months which is almost the entirety of the season.
On Everton’s side, they were able to escape with a point to preserve their unbeaten start to the season and also maintain their spot at the summit of the Premier League log, no thanks to comeback goals from Micheal Keane and Dominic Calvert Lewin.
They also had their fair share of pains after star attacker Richarlison got sent off in the dying minutes of the game for a reckless lunge on Thiago Alcantra. With that suspension, he looks set to miss out on three domestic games. Carlos Ancelotti would have to find a way of plugging the obvious hole and that might be a decent opportunity for Nigerian attacker, Alex Iwobi to stake a claim for a starting berth in the side.
VAR could be said to be the star of the derby and was definitely kind to Everton and cruel to Liverpool.. First, it denied Pickford any punishment for the tackle that could cost Van Dijk the rest of the season, no penalty and no red card. VAR ruled an offside. As if that was not enough, it spared their blushes by denying Liverpool a last gasp winner ruling out Henderson’s winner for offside. Mane was marginally ruled out for offside.
If derby victory gives bragging rights, guess a draw would allow both parties the opportunity to talk until they meet again to settle the unfinished business. For Everton, it was derby delight seeing their unbeaten start to the season preserved and they are still top of the log but for Liverpool, it is derby disappointment; injuries, disallowed goal and of course, dropped points.
The Merseyside derby has come and gone and while we await the other derbies; London derby, North London derby and Manchester derby, it can be said that the season promises to be a long one and the road to the title and top 4, a tortuous one.