It seemed apparent that prior to Tuesday’s kickoff, Liverpool’s chances of achieving victory over Everton were slim.
The Reds recently lost one of their most important players of recent years, Lucas Leiva, to yet another knee injury; following the likes of Agger, Sakho, Enrique, Allen, and Johnson on Zaf Iqbal’s treatment table.
Leiva’s role to anchor the midfield and drop deep to receive the ball or stop opposition attacks could not be replicated to the fullest extent by any other available midfield player at Liverpool, according to many critics.
Boy, did Steven Gerrard have something else to say.
A man who was supposedly too aged to fit into Rodger’s proactive, pressing midfield showed the passion and energy needed for such an important game; especially from a local lad.
His performance limited Everton to sporadic threats, and his interceptions and tackles were springboards for counter-attacks.
The performance on the whole was as good as the away fixture at Tottenham, known markedly as one of Liverpool’s performances of their season. But was it really as much of Liverpool’s quality, or of the horrible performance of their opponents?
Let’s look back to the game at White Hart Lane in December. Tottenham’s record was woeful prior to the game, only 2 wins in the past 6 games; and they had lost key players such as Sandro and Jan Vertonghen to injury. This allowed Liverpool’s players to run riot over Spurs’ unprotected midfield, leaving their makeshift defense being put horribly to the sword.
Fast forward to the Merseyside derby, and Everton were not at a dissimilar position to Spurs had been in the aforementioned fixture.
Everton lost key players to injury prior to the game, including defensive lynchpins Distin and Coleman, as well as attacking talents Deulofeu, Oviedo, and almost Barkley. Their form hasn’t been too bad either, with 2 wins in the previous 5 games helping keep up the pace for their Champions League push.
But those injuries gifted Liverpool with a subpar defence with the inexperienced John Stones and the injury-ravaged Antolin Alcaraz, and they took their chance with both hands. Even the ever-reliable Phil Jagielka, unsettled by so many changes around his defence, was making mistake after mistake; embodied by the poor pass for Suarez’s goal.
Critics continue to bring up these points of poor performances from the opposing team aiding our victories, but what they never aim to rule out is the quality and relentlessness of Liverpool to attack and defend to no end. SAS dominated the center backs and Coutinho finally put in a worthy performance, while Flanagan was as determined and positive as ever and Mignolet put his recent nightmare performances to rest with several saves. It is also noteworthy that
Liverpool kept a clean sheet without three-fourths of their starting backline.
But injuries are not the real test. Rodgers continually speaks of establishing “consistency” with our performances and results in chase of a top-four place, and for the most part both have been decent. But as seen with the performances against Everton and Tottenham, it is time that Liverpool take their consistency to the next level, and that Liverpool make sure that these all-action performances don’t always have to happen on the basis of the opposition’s frailties.
Who knows, when they do reach that consistency, the top-four will be the least of their worries.