Everton and Liverpool put on a brilliant show at Goodison Park, drawing 3-3 after a back-and-forth clash which both sides will feel disappointed not to have won. There was drama aplenty -- Romelu Lukaku scored a late brace to give the Toffees the lead before Daniel Sturridge scored a last-minute equaliser -- fantastic strikes and more than a few contentious moments. It was, in short, a Merseyside derby.
More from our team sites
More from our team sites
Everton started well, putting their guests under immediate pressure and holding the ball in the Liverpool half for most of the first five minutes. But as soon as the Reds did escape, they scored. Steven Gerrard punted a hopeful diagonal in the vague direction of John Flanagan, a stretching Seamus Coleman put it behind for a corner, and then the Toffees forgot how to defend set pieces.
Gerrard's delivery was flicked onto the far post by Luis Suarez, and with Lukaku falling asleep, Philippe Courtinho found himself in acres of space. The Brazilian had enough time to take the ball down and poke it past Tim Howard, and despite an attempted intervention from James McCarthy on the line, Liverpool were 1-0 up.
That lead didn't last very long, though.
Again, a set piece was defended terribly, but this time it was the visitors at fault. Ross Barkley turned past Martin Skrtel to knock on Leighton Baines' free kick, and Kevin Mirallas popped up at the far post and squeezed the ball over the line with the outside of his right boot before either Gerrard or Simon Mignolet could react.
Everton came very close to grabbing the lead minutes later. Steven Pienaar swiped the ball on the halfway line and, with Liverpool's defence in disarray, the winger was able to play a first-time pass for Lukaku. The Belgian, now through on goal, looked certain to score, but fellow countryman Mignolet was on hand to rush off his line and get a vital touch as Lukaku was trying to take the ball around him.
The Toffees would come to rue that miss, and it wouldn't take very long. Suarez struck in the 19th minute, picking himself up following a Gareth Barry foul to bend an exquisite free kick around the outside of the wall and in off Howard's fingertips. It was a fantastic strike, but questions have to be asked about Everton's defending -- Pienaar's lame attempt to append himself to the end of the wall as Suarez hit the ball only highlighted how poorly constructed it was.
The two sides had been so busy scoring goals that they'd forgotten to indulge in the violence that tends to mark Merseyside derbies. Kevin Mirallas corrected that oversight. Spotting Suarez limping with what looked like a knee injury, he responded by attempting to amputate the injured appendage with his studs. Suarez went down in a heap, tempers flared, and at the end of the melee (which somehow managed to engulf the Liverpool physio) Phil Dowd's response was to flash a yellow card.
It was a shockingly lenient decision, and Mirallas, who sustained a bad injury at the hands of Suarez last time the two met, made the most of it by taking the opportunity to rake the back of the Uruguayan's skull with his studs early in the second half.
But despite the attempts to cripple the controversial Liverpool striker, it was Everton who had to deal with an injury. Jordan Henderson's first major contribution to the match was to accidentally stamp on Baines, who was withdrawn for Gerard Deulofeu shortly thereafter.
The substitution forced a major reshuffling for the Toffees, but it very nearly provided an immediate benefit when Mirallas took advantage of the visitors' high line to play Deulofeu in on goal. Mignolet was caught in no-man's land, but an awful finish from the youngster rescued the stranded goalkeeper and preserved the Liverpool lead.
Then it was Liverpool's turn to waste an easy chance. Suarez wriggled his way though the defence and the ball squirted free. Joe Allen was the first onto the loose ball, but despite being free on goal ten yards out with an option to pass to an open Suarez, the midfielder screwed a shot just past Howard's left hand post.
A 3-1 lead would have killed off the match. Instead, the Reds were made to sweat, and they had their goalkeeper to thank for having any sort of lead at all after Lukaku broke free down the left channel. Mignolet came out, stayed big, and batted down the striker's chip just when it looked like it had beaten him.
Lukaku was not to be denied, however. The loanee was by this point single-handedly laying siege to the Liverpool goal, and eventually Mignolet's guard was going to crack. The goal came from a free kick. A deflection forced a flying save, but Everton were first to the rebound and the ball was worked back into the centre for Lukaku to hit first time into the bottom corner.
Both sides had chances immediately after the goal. Suarez should have restored Liverpool's lead when he was gifted a free header at the far post, but he directed his effort straight at Howard. Deulofeu was twice denied by Mignolet at the other end of the pitch. Lukaku had also killed off a promising Toffees counterattack, playing an idiotic reverse pass right to Daniel Agger to waste a four on two break.
But Lukaku had already demonstrated just how dangerous he can be, and he made up for that mistake in the 82nd minute, beating Glen Johnson on a corner kick to power a header past Mignolet. Goodison Park roared its approval as Everton looked set for a huge derby win.
That reckoned without the intervention of Sturridge. Not fit enough to make the starting eleven, the striker came on for Lucas Leiva with a little over ten minutes to go, and Liverpool's top scorer snatched the equaliser just as the Toffees were looking to see the game out. Following Sylvain Distin's foul on Victor Moses, Gerrard sent in a free kick, and Sturridge rose above a crowd of blue shirts to nod in and make it 3-3.
Liverpool came closest to breaking the deadlock in injury time. Moses contrived to miss a free header, Howard saved well from a Suarez snapshot, and Sturridge had a second goal ruled out for offside. But Everton were threatening too, and the last action of the game featured Lukaku and Coleman causing havoc in the Liverpool box before Dowd blew for full time, finally bringing the pulsating encounter to a close.
Everton starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Tim Howard; Leighton Baines (Gerard Deulofeu 50'), Sylvain Distin, Phil Jagielka, Seamus Coleman; Gareth Barry, James McCarthy; Steven Pienaar, Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas; Romelu Lukaku.
Goals: Mirallas 11', Lukaku 72' 82'.
Liverpool starting lineup (4-3-3): Simon Mignolet; John Flanagan, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson; Joe Allen , Lucas Leiva (Daniel Sturridge 79'), Steven Gerrard; Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez, Jordan Henderson.
Goals: Coutinho 5', Suarez 19', Sturridge 89'.