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Klopp okay with “absolutely deserved” Merseyside Derby draw

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Jurgen Klopp‘s second choice men still controlled the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park on Saturday, and survived Everton’s late charge to collect an away point.

[ MORE: Allardyce fails derby test ]

The 0-0 draw may hurt Liverpool’s chances of finishing second in the Premier League, but forgive the majority of Anfield for not caring too much given an explosive and comprehensive 3-0 win over Manchester City in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

The Reds still out-chanced Everton to the tune of 10-6 shot attempts and 62 percent possession in a derby the hosts would’ve desperately wanted to win.

“A point is okay. Everton were always ready to fight but we didn’t give them the opportunity until the late stages, we stopped playing football and were a bit lucky. But that is what we have to take. I think it’s an absolutely deserved draw.

“For 75 minutes we were completely in charge. I am absolutely okay, it’s not the best day in my life but let’s carry on. Now we have to focus immediately and be ready again on Tuesday, let’s fight for the next round.”

Man, do we love that “best day in my life” quote from Klopp, who can be absolutely hilarious at times.

Klopp’s mostly second choice team started Ragnar Klavan at left back and both Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings in the front three. A point and health for Tuesday’s UCL second leg is absolutely “okay.”

Sad scoreless derby draw is Allardyce’s Everton death knell

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Everton’s failure to find any semblance of offense against the largely second team version of their Merseyside Derby rivals should serve as the death knell for Sam Allardyce at Goodison Park.

The Toffees accomplished nothing Saturday despite their point gained against Liverpool, who were away from home and coasting toward Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League second leg at Manchester City.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

We mean, Ragnar Klavan started at left back!!

No, the Toffees did not have prime playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson, but that shouldn’t have mattered given the Reds plans for the Merseyside Derby.

Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings started with Sadio Mane. Klavan was at left back. The bench had a majority of kids.

Allardyce opened the match with a cautious approach. Why did urgency only arrive in the final 15 minutes? Was Allardyce’s Everton afraid to lose to second-choice rivals? Or was he playing for a point in a match which only carried merit in terms of bragging rights?

Yes, Everton was still in a race for the 7th place spot which seems destined to reward with Europa League play. But they aren’t any more, five points and behind Burnley having played two more matches.

But they’ve spent big to firm up their status as a should-be Top Six contender. Arsenal’s poor season opened that door; Ronald Koeman put the club in a hole in terms of reaching that status, but no club — not Burnley, not Leicester City, not Arsenal — has done enough to make coming back an impossibility.

Everton is now under .500 during Allardyce’s reign, falling to 7W-4D-8L. That’s 1.3 points per game, and would have them with two more projected points than they stand with Koeman’s total included.

The fact that Cenk Tosun, a player who Allardyce reportedly didn’t want, was Everton’s best threat on the day also says something (Theo Walcott was also lively, as the manager continued to “save teams” via the transfer market). Everton was always going to rise above the drop zone, and those who bought into the fear of its legitimacy can be forgiven but not held up as bastions of perspective.

West Ham United has seen this before, and it should come as some comfort to Everton’s hierarchy that they were bamboozled by a man who has bamboozled so many others. Even the English national team fell for his act.

It’s not that he’s useless, rather it’s the reputation he’s cultivated as a man who’s going to do anything for your club more than Tony Pulis or Mark Hughes or any of the other brigade of “next tier” managers underneath the top bosses in world football. Yes, he led Bolton to Europe. So did Alan Pardew at Newcastle, and Slaven Bilic as Allardyce’s replacement at West Ham.

This cannot be your man, Everton, not if you want to be anywhere near your Merseyside rivals at any time soon.

Three things learned: Everton v. Liverpool

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LIVERPOOL — Everton and Liverpool played out a tight, tense 0-0 draw in the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park on Saturday, with Jurgen Klopp‘s much-changed side huffing and puffing against a resolute, if uninspiring, Everton.

Sam Allardyce‘s side now haven’t won any of their last 17 derbies against Liverpool as Yannick Bolasie had a shot saved by Loris Karius superbly and Cenk Tosun went close late on.

Without the injured Mohamed Salah, Liverpool failed to really take the game by the scruff of the neck despite having large spells of possession.

Here’s what we learned from an edgy encounter at Goodison.


AGITATION GROWS AT EVERTON

“You hardly touched the ball!” sung the Liverpool fans towards the Everton supporters midway through the second half.

Of course, they did touch it, many times, but you get what they’re saying. Everton’s fans appear to be fed up with Sam Allardyce’s direct style of play and the odds of him being in charge next season appear to be growing by the day.

This was a perfect audition for what Everton could become under Big Sam but instead he stuck to his principles as his team set up to defend and did just that with an unadventurous plan. Even a few decent chances at the end of the game which fell to Cenk Tosun and Dominic Calvert-Lewin couldn’t lift the mood among Everton’s supporters.

Their lack of ambition was summed up when Wayne Rooney and Yannick Bolasie were both taken off in the second half and Idrissa Gueye and Calvert-Lewin came on. Rooney, playing in a central midfield role, was livid with the decision and the decision to take Bolasie off was cheered by the home fans after several slack moments despite his curling shot almost giving the Toffees the lead in the first half.

Allardyce has Everton into the top 10 of the Premier League and away from the relegation zone which was his remit when he took over. But that’s not enough for Everton’s fans who were promised a push for UEFA Champions League under new owner Farhad Moshiri.

As Liverpool fans sung sarcastic songs about Allardyce and his style of play, it seemed clear that most of the home fans inside Goodison feel the same. Tosun had little support the entire game and Everton’s defenders were clearly told to lump the ball forward rather than to build from the back. Everton were set up to defend and not to lose but against a Liverpool side who had clearly prioritized their UCL quarterfinal second leg at Man City on Tuesday with their team selection, this was a chance for Allardyce’s side to make a statement. They didn’t. At all.

Big Sam has defended the job he’s done at Everton since he arrived. In the week he compared their situation to that of West Brom’s who sit bottom of the table but where above Everton in the table when he took over.

Ye it’s not about where Everton are in the table. Their performance in Saturday’s Merseyside Derby against a much-changed Liverpool side  proved that Allardyce’s methods aren’t what the fans want and this relationship isn’t working out despite Everton clear of relegation danger.


SOLANKE READY TO STEP UP

Dominic Solanke‘s fourth start in the Premier League was a big moment for him. With Solanke and Danny Ings starting in place of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, they had huge boots to fill but Solanke was up to the task.

He nodded wide early on and had a snapshot from close range which Jordan Pickford saved superbly, but it was his ability to hold the ball up and link up with Sadio Mane and Ings which impressed.

Despite failing to score in 23 appearances this season in all competitions (19 of them have been as a second half sub, often late in the game) at 20 years of age Solanke is ready to step up and play regularly in the Premier League.

His pace and power caused Everton’s robust defense problems and even if he can’t get ahead of Firmino and Salah at Liverpool, a loan move to another PL club will surely be on the cards for next season. Klopp has been reluctant to loan youngsters out but Solanke has shown considerable progress this season and the next step must be to play regularly in the PL. He can do it. And score goals. No question.


CHAMPIONS LEAGUE NOW LIVERPOOL’S FOCUS

With a top four spot all but secure with five games to go, with got a glimpse of Klopp’s mindset for the final weeks of the Premier League season: the UEFA Champions League will be the focus.

Ings, Solanke, Ragnar Klavan and Georgino Wijnaldum all came in to the starting lineup and youngsters Curtis Jones, Conor Masterson and Rafael Camacho were all on the bench.

Klopp’s comments after Liverpool’s 3-0 win against Man City at Anfield on Wednesday suggested he wasn’t happy with an early kick off on Saturday for this game but he was in a position where he could afford to rotate his team with the second leg in Manchester in mind.

Those who came in did well but tired late on and with the Premier League title gone, Liverpool’s focus is now on at least making the final four of the Champions League rather than finishing second in the PL.

Liverpool ends unbeaten run of rattled Man City

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  • Goals traded in first 45
  • Reds score three in eight minutes
  • Man City’s 30-game PL unbeaten run ends
  • B. Silva, Gundogan score late
  • MORE: JPW’s 3 things at Anfield

Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah scored second half goals as Liverpool topped Man City 4-3 at Anfield on Sunday

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Leroy Sane traded first half goals before Liverpool exploded after the break. The Reds move third with the win on 47 points, 15 back of leaders City.

Bernardo Silva scored in the 84th minute and Ilkay Gundogan nabbed one in stoppage time for Man City to close the gap.

Virgil Van Dijk missed out for Liverpool with a minor leg injury.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were perhaps a bit too excited to find a fourth minute break, and an early chance was wasted but a warning sign proffered to Man City.

Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring to cap a frenetic first 10 minutes when he belted a low shot past a slow-to-react Ederson. It was 1-0.

Sergio Aguero just missed a sliding equalizer when his offside run nearly met a Kevin De Bruyne cross.

Minutes later, Leroy Sane saw a left-footed shot deflect off Dejan Lovren‘s back and out for a corner kick which City played short. And Karius was low to collect a De Bruyne shot in the 35th minute.

Fabian Delph was injured and replaced by Danilo, but it was another fullback who picked up an assist as Man City, to the surprise of few, had an answer before the break.

Kyle Walker sent a long ball over the top of the defense to Sane, and an overeager Joe Gomez let Sane’s chest trap befuddle him. The German then cooked Joel Matip before blasting an effort past Loris Karius to make it 1-1.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Nicolas Otamendi’s fine season nearly took the next step when his header off a 51st minute corner popped off the cross bar.

Liverpool’s aim to reclaim the lead was stymied by an Ederson stop on Salah, but a corner soon followed when Oxlade-Chamberlain’s attempt at a brace was partially blocked by City.

Firmino did restore the advantage when he bodied off John Stones and chipped Ederson to make it 2-1 in the 60th.

And Anfield just avoided pure bedlam when Mane cranked a shot off the cross bar less than a minute after the goal.

That wild reaction arrived in the 62nd minute when Mane got another chance. Salah blocked an Otamendi clearance, and a composed Mane betrayed his cool with a vicious strike past Ederson.

Then this, from Salah:

But it wasn’t over, somehow. Bernardo Silva was in the catbird seat to pull within two, and Gundogan just poked a ball home in the first of four minutes of stoppage time.

City then won a free kick in the fourth minute of stoppage. De Bruyne presided over the effort, as Klopp subtituted Ragnar Klavan for Mane to waste precious time.

Aguero’s diving header deceived the eyes and the rules as he was offside when his header sailed into the outside of the netting.

Stars and duds from Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool

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The festive fixtures began with a gift that kept on giving (up goals) as Arsenal came back from 2-0 down in a 3-3 draw with Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Friday.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things ]

Who was most responsible for the result, for better or worse? Here are one man’s thoughts.

Three stars

  1. Philippe Coutinho — His clever header to make it 1-0 was a neat bit of skill, and the Brazilian was very much Liverpool’s star.
  2. Mohamed Salah — Didn’t finish as clinically as he has — if he did, the Reds would’ve been up 3-0 at the break — but was a big part of everything the Reds did and attack wasn’t why they lost.
  3. Jack Wilshere — There may be egg on my face after I review the first half — JPW didn’t love JW’s day — but Wilshere did so many little things well in the second half and a big thing, too, covering near-90 yards to break up a Liverpool counter. Was asked to do a lot with Xhaka in what appeared to be close to a double pivot.

Three duds

  1. Laurent Koscielny — Just hasn’t looked right for some time, and seems to physically slip in giving away the ball at least once a match. Very poor and made a mistake in the build-up or the business end of all three goals conceded by Arsenal.
  2. Simon Mignolet — The second goal was a bullet from Xhaka, but to miss that poorly on a shot right at you that sent the match to 2-2 was regrettable.
  3. Joe Gomez — Hasn’t been miserable every match, though he certainly was on the Alexis goal. What Klopp wouldn’t give to have Nathaniel Clyne return to health.

Bonus rating

  1. Petr Cech — Was set to be one of the stars of this until he only got a piece of Firmino’s rip to make it 3-3. Three goals allowed is three goals allowed. Still, a decent game for a 3-3.
  2. Alexandre Lacazette — Was probably frustrated by his wingers not trying to find him often, but he plays a fairly complete game as a center forward. Terrific assist on Ozil’s goal.
  3. Ragnar Klavan — A couple fine interventions make us want to highlight his performance in keeping Lacazette off the score sheet. Then again, three goals allowed.
  4. Alexis Sanchez — Only apparent in short bursts during the first 45, there’s no denying his role in the electric comeback.