We came looking for maps of the future: to cast an eye over Ronald Koeman’s strikingly young Everton side, to judge Liverpool’s top-four credentials, to watch the first derby in the shadow of Anfield’s sparkling new Main Stand. Instead, the 228th Merseyside derby was relentlessly pursued by vestiges of the past: old frailties, old neuroses, a reassuringly old story. Everton’s 18-year wait for a win here continues.
There were few answers on offer here, not even for Liverpool, who saw a highly satisfactory afternoon tarnished by an injury to Sadio Mane and the fleeting reappearance of their set-piece mania. “Nearly everything was perfect,” Jurgen Klopp said afterwards, but in truth Liverpool were good rather than great. And this time, good was good enough.
In any case, Klopp’s reading of the game was a good deal more realistic than Ronald Koeman’s. It has not been the happiest of weeks for Koeman, who has lost key players through injury and become engaged in a curious feud with Ireland manager Martin O’Neill. Perhaps losing this crucial derby was the final befuddlement. There could have been few other explanations for his claim that Everton had “controlled the game”.
The game was certainly controlled, but it was not Everton controlling it. “If you see the stats, it’s really close,” Koeman argued, but a more accurate measure of Liverpool’s supremacy was the 80 minutes of this game they spent in the lead. In front of the watching James Bond actor Daniel Craig, Liverpool were shaken by Everton’s surprise equaliser and stirred by Philippe’s Coutinho scintillating response, but once they took a grip of this game they never loosened it.
From first whistle to last, there was a gaucheness to Everton, a lack of composure that was perhaps best summed up by Ross Barkley in midfield. The suspicion persists that Barkley is one of those players who does not actually dribble the ball, but simply miscontrols it again and again. It is what makes him so prone to the dangerously late challenge, and amid the frequent misplaced passes Barkley was lucky to stay on the pitch after at least three bad tackles in the first half. He will reflect on this - or should, at any rate - as another big game he has failed to dominate.
Barkley could do a lot worse than study his opposite number. Coutinho has been in indifferent form since returning from injury in January, but here he was superb: scoring the second goal, making the third and creating havoc in the Everton defence. He may have returned, but not until yesterday did it really feel like he was back.
But for all Coutinho’s quality, Everton proved useful accomplices. “Master tactician,” was O’Neill’s taunt of Koeman in midweek, and while Koeman’s 3-4-3 offered decent counterplay down the flanks, the main problem with it is that unless you can call on an N’Golo Kante, it occasionally leaves you short of numbers in midfield.
Liverpool were allowed far too much space to play in their own half, and by the time Mane, Coutinho and Roberto Firmino start running at you, it is often too late. So it proved seven minutes in, when Mane won the ball just beyond halfway and shrugged off Tom Davies like a cloak. Ahead, Coutinho made the run, but it is doubtful if Mane even saw him. His eyes were on the far corner, and the left-footed shot that would find it with unerring accuracy.
Everton were thus forced to chase the game from an early stage, and with neither the pace to hurt Liverpool on the break, nor the quality to break them down, they struggled. Romelu Lukaku was a spectator as attack after attack broke down.
But pump the ball into the area, and Liverpool will always give you a chance. On the half-hour, Everton equalised from a Leighton Baines free-kick: Phil Jagielka getting the header in, academy defender Matt Pennington tucking home the rebound for his first Premier League goal. Blue smoke poured out of the Everton end, and for a moment, the blue half of Merseyside believed again.
It would be the high-point of Everton’s afternoon. Three minutes later, Coutinho picked the ball up 40 yards out - again, completely unchallenged - and started running. A wonderful drop of the shoulder sent Pennington to Lime Street station. By the time he returned, Coutinho had curled the ball deliciously around Joel Robles.
And so the match resettled into its former pattern. Lukaku saw a little more of the ball in the second half, and Mane’s departure after a worrying ankle injury drained a little juice from the game. But the odd mistimed tackle still kept Anthony Taylor’s right arm busy enough; Williams was lucky to escape after a nasty challenge on Emre Can.
Afterwards, Klopp offered a veiled criticism of Everton’s physicality. “If you saw something, write about it,” he said. “My teams are always top of the fair play [league], because I think aggressiveness means to hurt yourself.” Koeman, meanwhile, pointed the finger at Liverpool assistant manager Zeljko Buvac, taking issue with his harassment of the fourth official. “You have to behave yourself a little more,” Koeman chided. “Making that show, I don’t like that.”
By then, however, Everton’s hill had become an Alp. Williams was hopelessly turned by substitute Divock Origi, whose placed the ball past Robles. Three-one, and although half an hour still remained, Everton’s task began to feel like damage limitation from that point onwards.
And so with staunch Reds fan Craig watching from the stands, Everton searched in vain for a quantum of solace. By now, the morning drizzle had given way to bright sunshine. Liverpool were knocking the ball around with impunity, their fans’ chants of “1999” echoing all the way across Stanley Park.
That was the year Everton last won here, and once more the walk home will have felt like a long, bleak trudge. Once more, when Monday morning arrives, reds will taunt blues in playgrounds and offices all over the city. They certainly know their history around these parts, and for now at least, nothing changes.
Lukaku has attempted a total of ZERO shots in 270 minutes v Liverpool.— Artur Petrosyan (@arturpetrosyan) April 1, 2017
Average touch positions (full time)
Time on ball (at full time)
Liverpool were good money for the win today and thoroughly deserve the win. Everton only really threatened from set-pieces, and even then that was rare.
Lukaku was kept under wraps by Lovren and Matip, who both had good games, and Liverpool can be pleased with their day's work. It's another good result against a top 10 side; they need to build on this against Bournemouth, who are up next.
Klavan comes on for Firmino as the game fizzles out. Four minutes will be added on.
Lukaku overhits a cross, rather summing up a poor afternoon for him.
Brilliant run from Mirallas as he turns past Lucas, beats Matip, brushes off Lovren and creates himself a shooting opportunity. But he ends it poorly, blazing way over the bar.
Liverpool are knocking the ball around and keeping possession well now. Everton are tiring and struggling to get close to it.
Alexander-Arnold picks up a nice position in front of the Everton defence and shoots at goal, but it is straight at Robles.
Calvert-Lewin off, Mirallas on, as Koeman goes for broke.
Ten minutes remaining, and this game is slipping away from Everton.
What a save from Robles that is! He's finally woken up!
Lovren does brilliantly to tackle Lukaku as Everton break, and suddenly defence turns into attack. Can beats Barry on the right, then his pull back is met by Alexander-Arnold, who turns the ball towards the top corner, only for Robles to claw it away.
Time on ball (60 - 75 min)
Trent Alexander-Arnold replaces Philippe Coutinho.
Holgate wins a free-kick in a good position for Everton on the right flank from a Milner handball. Baines to take.
Everton are pushing for a way back into this game and Mignolet does well to palm away Holgate's deflected shot, before Calvert-Lewin heads a good chance over the bar from five yards out.
A high tackle from Can gets him a yellow. Someone could get hurt soon if one of these connects.
Two attacking changes for Everton. Barry and Valencia replace Davies and Pennington. Koeman finally goes to a back four. Should have done that at half time.
Williams flies in late on Emre Can, who has some nasty marks on his knee as a result, and the Welshman gets a yellow card. Another bad tackle.
A bad day at the office
Has Joel Robles given up saves for Lent?— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) April 1, 2017
Jesus Christ, the state of Robles.— Alex Shaw (@AlexShawESPN) April 1, 2017
Has Joel Robles played in goal before?— Jack Pitt-Brooke (@JackPittBrooke) April 1, 2017
Time on ball (45 - 60 min)
Shortly after seeing an effort fly over the bar, Origi doubles Liverpool's lead. Coutinho comes in off the left and does well to feed the Belgian. Robles comes charging off his line - completely inexplicably - and Origi's effort flies past him and into the goal when the keeper should really have saved it.
Barkley is involved in everything a the moment. He does brilliantly to hold off a couple of challenges and keep the ball on the edge of the Liverpool box, before releasing Holgate, but his cross is charge down.
Origi did come on for Mane, by the way.
Barkley gets into a good position 20 yards from goal, and he takes it in his stride well. His shot has the fizz taken out of it by a defender, and Mignolet saves easily, but that was better from Barkley.
Mane gets up briefly but then collapses again. It doesn't look great, to be honest. Divock Origi is being readied.
Sadio Mane is down after a collision with Baines, in which his leg got caught under his body as he fell. This is a real concern for Liverpool.
Pennington is still on, and Coutinho gets him one-on-one again. He cuts past the young defender and shoots low at goal. It is blocked and cleared but it's more of the same and that could be a further worry for Koeman.
Calvert-Lewin wins a free-kick inside the Liverpool half and the defenders trot forwards. It's a good ball from Barkley, which Williams latches onto, but he can't get a clean connection on it, and his effort falls into the hands of Mignolet.
The players are back out
And Liverpool get the second half started.
That Barkley challenge
This doesn't quite capture the foul perfectly, but will give you an idea of what Barkley just did to Lovren to earn a yellow that might well have been red.
The half comes to an end with Liverpool in front, just about deservedly. Take nothing away from Coutinho for his goal, and well done Pennington for scoring, but I fear for the Everton youngster. It's his first game of the season and it's a really, really tough one to come in to. Coutinho is isolating him time and again and will surely have more luck in the second half unless Koeman changes something.
He may go to four at the back and bring on Gareth Barry in midfield, I reckon.
Average touch positions (half time)
Time on ball (first half)
Barkley has previous, of course.
Two minutes added on.
Lucas is the latest to go in late, catching Holgate after the ball has gone. No card, but Koeman isn't happy about it.
Finally, Barkley is booked. His touch is heavy and he flies in on Lovren. Anthony Taylor counts three offences - quite rightly - even though Barkley can't believe he is being cautioned. Replays show just how bad the tackle is - it could be a red on its own, let alone the earlier tackle for which Barkley should have been booked.
Replays show Williams just trod on Can after a challenge from the German. A silly, petty thing to do from Williams, who could easily have been booked for that.
Jamie Redknapp reckons Coutinho is "bang in form". That's his second goal since 6 November.
What a goal from Coutinho to give Liverpool the lead again! He waltzes forward in an inside-left position, with Gueye thinking he has guided the Brazilian wide enough. A sudden dart forward brings him one-on-one with Everton's goal-scorer Pennington. He cuts onto his right and unleashes a curling effort in one fell swoop. It flies into Robles' far corner and Liverpool are ahead again.
Time on ball (15 - 30 min)
An equaliser from Matthew Pennington for Everton makes it 1-1.
He fires it straight into the wall.
In the aftermath, Tom Davies flies in for a loose ball and, late, takes out Mane. He gets the first booking of the match. Barkley's earlier challenge was worse.
Barkley misses an opportunity to slip Lukaku through on goal, but is given a reprieve by Emre Can, who dives in and concedes a free-kick in a very dangerous position. Baines stands over it.
Everton hit back
Everton register their first shot, in response to three so far from Liverpool.
Everton win their first corner of the game. Baines crosses, Jagielka heads over the bar.
Coutinho is released on the left by a lovely ball from Can. He stands Pennington up, drops his shoulder and darts onto his right foot. It opens up and he should surely score, but he fires his shot straight at Robles. Big chance, that.
Time on ball (0 - 15 min)
A very dodgy backpass indeed from Pennington, who is showing some pretty understandable but also slightly worrying early nerves.
Better from Everton, with Baines finding an advanced position for the first time and delivering a great ball into the box, only for Calvert-Lewin not to anticipate the ball dropping over Milner's head. His control lets him down and the chance goes begging.
After a decent start, Everton are now chasing the game, and they really need to get some support to Barkley and Lukaku, who have found the going tough so far, and look very isolated indeed.
It's Coutinho's turn to dance through a host of Everton challenges, and he nearly finds his way right through the heart of the visiting defence, but a last ditch tackle eventually halts his progress.
Liverpool are ahead! Everton back off further, and further, and further, as Mane exchanges passes with Firmino. The Senegalese winger is allowed too much space on the edge of the box as he skips away from Williams and then his left-footed shot goes through the legs of Pennington and into the far corner of the net.
Taylor's patience is again tested just moments later - a bad, bad tackle from Barkley should incur a caution but the referee decides against booking him, again because it's so early in the game. It's not even Barkley's first poor challenge of the game.
Clyne is caught in possession by Baines and pulls the Everton man's shirt as he tries to break. Referee Anthony Taylor gives a free-kick but decides against a yellow card, presumably because it's so early in the game and he doesn't want to start booking players so soon.
Pennington is on the right side of the back three, on the same side as Holgate, who is at wing-back, making for a very inexperienced right side for the visitors. Liverpool might well target that part of the pitch.
It takes just 19 seconds for the first tasty tackle as Barkley flies in late on James Milner.
After a touching tribute to Ronnie Moran
We're ready to go. Ross Barkley gets things started.
The players are out
And we're minutes away from kick off. The Kop's in fine voice.
The big questions
Riddle me this: Liverpool's players, already suited and booted, were earlier photographed heading into the stadium carrying what look like suit bags. Someone please tell me, what is in the bags? A second suit? Football kit? Nothing? I cannot work it out.
We are really dealing with the big issues, here.
Koeman vs O'Neill
If you missed it, this is a brilliant story you should read before kick off in which an international manager made a statement accusing a Premier League manager of being a 'master tactician of the blame game'. Said Premier League manager responded on Twitter with this:
James McCarthy began his pre-season three and a half weeks after Ireland were knocked out of the Euros. From the master tactician— Ronald Koeman (@RonaldKoeman) March 31, 2017
Read the full story here. It's great.
What do you think will happen today?
Who is Matthew Pennington?
The question on everyone's lips right now...
Well, he is a 22-year defender who has come through the youth ranks at Everton and, after loan spells in the past three years at Tranmere, Coventry and Walsall, is now starting in the Merseyside derby.
Although this is his first appearance of the season, this isn't his first ever game for Everton. He started four matches last season - against Bournemouth, Leicester, Sunderland and Norwich - but this will unquestionably be his biggest test. He is also capped at England Uner-19 level.
Matthew Pennington is thrown in to the firepit!
Here's the Everton team:
Pennington gets only his fifth ever Premier League start in an Everton side brimming with youthful exuberance. Mason Holgate starts at right-back in the absence of the injured Seamus Coleman, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin retains his place on the left side of attack.
Coutinho and Firmino are fine to start for Liverpool
But Daniel Sturridge doesn't even make the bench.
Can someone explain this to me?
What is it?
It's the Merseyside derby - a match between rivals Liverpool and Everton!
When is it?
It's the early game this weekend, on Saturday 1 April.
What time is kick-off?
What TV channel is it on?
Sky Sports 1 will have live coverage of the match. Alternatively, you can follow updates with Telegraph Sport on this page.
What is the team news?
Liverpool have potential worries over fatigue with Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino having been flown back from international duty in South America with Brazil only a couple of days before this match. They did get a private jet so the hope for Liverpool will be that they were adequately rested on that journey.
Adam Lallana picked up a thigh injury while away with England - an issue over which Gareth Southgate called Jurgen Klopp to clear the air - meaning Lallana will miss a month of action. He joins Jordan Henderson on the sidelines, and that could mean Lucas Leiva plays in midfield alongside Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum.
However, Daniel Sturridge will be hoping he is the main benefactor, given he is available again after illness.
Everton will be without Seamus Coleman for the forseeable future after the horrific leg break he suffered on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Midfielders Morgan Schneiderlin and James McCarthy are both doubts, while Funes Mori is certainly out.
What are they saying?
Klopp on contact from Southgate over Lallana's injury:
It is absolutely normal to have contact with the manager of the national team.
We both share players. I was not happy - I could not be less relaxed about this but it is not about blaming Gareth Southgate. I was not happy he played but it is not my decision and I have to respect other manager's decisions.
It doesn't help in these situations but we are not the only team or country who suffered. I think we could handle these situations better if we work together better.
Ronald Koeman on Coleman's injury:
It's a big, big blow for the player and a big, big blow for the club.
In all my years in football, Seamus is one of the best professionals I've ever worked with at any club.
That mentality will really be helpful to him now in not only coming to terms with what has happened but in setting out on the road to recovery and, over time, in him building himself once more to the level he has maintained over many years here at Everton.
What are the odds?
Liverpool - 8/11 Draw - 3/1 Everton - 17/4
What's our prediction?
Here's what Chris Bascombe thinks is going to happen:
This Mersey derby has more than local pride at stake as Liverpool seek to preserve Champions League hopes and Everton still have a flicker of light in pursuit of the top four. It's a while since Everton won at Anfield but that run will end eventually. Ronald Koeman's are likely to be less generous defensively than Roberto Martinez's. Liverpool's loss of Adam Lallana could be crucial, but the visitors suffered their own injury torment during the international break and have lost Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori for the rest of this season.
Liverpool 1 Everton 1