Rooney makes point as Reds rue break-up of ‘Fab Four’

A first ever Merseyside derby goal for Wayne Rooney earned a grizzly Everton side a dogged draw, but Liverpool fans were left wondering what might have been had Jurgen Klopp stuck with the ‘Fab Four’.

Rooney makes point as Reds rue break-up of ‘Fab Four’

The 229th meeting between these sides was combative rather than a classic as the Toffees delivered the kind of disciplined showing expected of a side managed by Sam Allardyce.

Although Liverpool dominated the possession and the bulk of the chances at Anfield, the decision of Klopp to leave out Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino was on the lips of frustrated Liverpool supporters as they trudged out of Anfield.

Klopp has only selected the same team for consecutive games once this season — for Liverpool’s first two matches of the campaign, against Watford and Hoffenheim.

Nevertheless, the German’s decision to make six changes from the side which thrashed Spartak Moscow 7-0 raised eyebrows.

Was he concerned about Liverpool’s capacity to maintain their attacking intent for the whole 90 minutes perhaps? Or maybe it was a psychological trojan horse, a selection to encourage Everton to show more ambition at Anfield.

Either way, it backfired as Rooney converted from the penalty spot after Dejan Lovren’s daft shove on Dominic Calvert-Lewin following Mohamed Salah’s stunning opening goal.

Klopp insisted afterwards that he took responsibility for the result but maintained it was correct to leave out his Brazilian duo.

“I thought before the game yes. After the game, still yes,” Klopp said. “Even when the result doesn’t show it. We do it like this for seven weeks. When we don’t win, I take the blame. I have no problem with that. The boys who came in were fresh and worked hard.”

Allardyce was the last manager to leave Anfield with a win, while in charge of Crystal Palace in April when his side came from behind to win 2-1.

The Everton boss could be forgiven for caution with his approach. Liverpool have scored 40 goals in their last 11 matches in all competitions before this meeting.

It was no shock that Everton pulled down the shutters, although Allardyce revealed Liverpool’s team sheet gave him a boost when he saw two of their most influential players on the bench.

“I would say it did, yes,” Allardyce said. “But they still had some outstanding players on the pitch.”

The start was typical of Merseyside derbies of yore; feisty tackles, misplaced passes, no chances taken with clearances booted into row Z if required. That was before Salah, Liverpool’s most effective attacking player in the first half, provided the moment of inspiration.

Salah was fed the ball by defender Joe Gomez on the right flank, and with Cuco Martina going to ground too easily, he cut inside on his left foot and spied a shooting opportunity.

The Egypt international dropped a shoulder to move past Gueye and then curled a sublime finish into the top corner of the net, with Jordan Pickford grasping at thin air.

Liverpool’s frustration at not being able to find a second was punished when Everton were awarded a penalty with 15 minutes left, after Calvert-Lewin was needlessly shoved to the ground by Dejan Lovren.

Allardyce felt there was clear contact between Lovren and his attacker.

“Don’t put your hands on a forward when he is in the box. Don’t mess with him, don’t touch him and don’t push him. If you do it, you run the risk of a penalty,” he said.

“He put his hands on and pushed him over. People can call it soft but you don’t do those things in the box today.

“The credit goes to referee Craig Pawson being brave enough to give it because I have had stats about 40 or 50 years since Everton got a penalty which shows how tough it can be. He was brave in his decision.”

Rooney stepped up confidently to leave Simon Mignolet flailing as he fired his spot-kick emphatically down the middle.

Klopp felt Calvert-Lewin had gone down easily to earn the decision. “I don’t think it was a penalty,” Klopp said. “The last moment Calvert-Lewin makes a step, he doesn’t push him or anything. It’s just body contact. That happens in midfield and 60 or 70 times it is not a free-kick.”

Coutinho was belatedly introduced and brought a save from Pickford with a curling effort from a free-kick. It was too little, too late as Everton held on.

Liverpool equalled their longest unbeaten run in all competitions against Everton of 15 games. That will have been of little comfort to Kopites at the final whistle.

LIVERPOOL (4-3-3):

Mignolet 6; Gomez 7, Lovren 5, Klaven 6, Robertson 6; Milner 6, Henderson 6, Oxlade-Chamberlain 5 (Coutinho 78; 6); Salah 8 (Firmino 67; 6), Solanke 5 (Ings 82; 6), Mane 6 Subs not used: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Can, Wijnaldum

EVERTON (4-1-4-1):

Pickford 7; Kenny 7, Holgate 6, Williams 6, Martina 5; Rooney 7 (Jagielka 83; 6), Gueye 7, Davies 5 (Lennon 45; 6), Sigurdsson 6; Niasse 5 (Schneiderlin 45; 6), Calvert-Lewin 7

Subs not used:

Robles, Keane, Lookman, Vlasic,

Referee:

C Pawson.

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