Everton were without Louis Saha due to injury and Steven Pienaar after the South African schemer informed David Moyes that he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to play with his impending move away from the club. Everton thus tweaked their setup slightly from the Tottenham game with Osman coming in like for like with Pienaar and Anichebe coming in but playing more towards the left side than Saha. Liverpool setup a more orthodox 4-5-1 with Jay Spearing playing slightly ahead of Leiva and behind the more attacking Meireles in a 3 man Liverpool central midfield.
Liverpool better in final third
Despite a fairly even start the ball was sticking a lot better on the red side’s attack, with Torres successfully completing 12 of the 14 passes he made in the first half; more passes completed than Anichebe and Beckford combined (10 successful from 18 in the first half). Anichebe’s passing was terrible all afternoon with 7 from 18 giving him the worst pass completion from any player on the park. The main reason for Liverpool’d first half superiority was two fold, firstly their pressing enabled them to win 14 of their 19 tackles in the first half hour, while as their pass completion graph shows below, they where consitstently the better team in terms of pass completion throughout.
Pass Completion Graph
Torres outlet was the key factor in the first half, consistently giving Liverpool an out ball in the channels which led to him forcing 5 shots on Howards’s goal, again more than Anichebe and Beckford compared who mustered just 3. After hitting the post early on and with us bizarrely standing off him at numerous occasions Liverpool eventually went in front when Kuyt’s shot was saved only for Meireles to smash home from the edge of the box with Arteta and Baines guilty of ball watching as the move ensued. In the build up to the goal Neville was again guilty of standing off his opponent and allowing him time and space to cross in a similar way he did with Etherington at Stoke on New Years Day. The half time whistle came at a good time as we where increasingly rocking with Distin in particular having a torrid time against Torres in the face of persistent Liverpool pressure.
Key Chalkboards Left to right
Left – First half Torres ball retention 85% first half compared to Victor Anichebe’s 20%, enabling Liverpool a platform for attacks, middle chalkboard shows Liverpool’s dominance in the tackle in the first 30 mins, winning 73% of tackles and Everton’s similar dominance in the first 30 mins of the second half with 72% of challenges victorious. The far right chalkboard shows Fellaini’s improved second half display with his ball retention improving 24% from the first half.
Whatever David Moyes said to his players as half time did the trick. Everton’s more potent left side clicked with Anichebe playing more wide high up the pitch, Osman coming more inside to help out Fellaini and Arteta who had been outnumbered against Liverpool’s 3 central midfielders in the first half, and Baines getting his usual game together advanced down the left. Just as Liverpool’s pressing gave them the platform to play in the first 30 minutes, the same factor witnessed the Blues take control in the second half with 16 of the 22 tackles won by the Blues in the first 30mins of the second period. Marouanne Fellaini was emerging from his subdued first half display and as the above chalkboard shows he was much more potent in the second period, going from 60% to 84% pass completion either side of the interval. The big haired midfield general’s play is usually a good barometer of our play in general.
The left side again was key to our revival, with Arteta’s out swinging corner headed home by Distin who made amends for his first half horror show getting us back in the game. Liverpool were rocking and we duly capitalised with the impressive Osman teeing up Beckford inside the Liverpool 18 yard box to tuck a lovely strike over Reina’s outstretched left hand. Everton where rampant and were completely in control at this stage and should really have put Liverpool to the sword. Our hosts are pretty formidable at home though and despite their lack of substance after the interval were still able to get back into the game on 68 minutes when Rodriguez was unnecessarily hauled down in the box by Howard which allowed Kuyt to slot from the penalty spot. Both managers seemed happy with a point at this stage with Moyes switching to a more orthodox 4-5-1 with Vaughan on his own up front and Liverpool holding their own 4-5-1 with no real ambition to kick on for the victory from either side.
It was the proverbial game of two halves here with both sides having spells of possession in either side of the interval but neither team really dominating for a sustained enough period to claim themselves worthy of a 3 point haul. Liverpool will probably see this as more a point gained than ourselves given that 2 of their 3 big hitters where on the sidelines and given the euphoria which surrounded ‘King’ Kenny’s return. My own belief is that Liverpool where here for the taking at kick off but given the predicament we found ourselves in at half time this was probably a point earned than 2 lost