Liverpool were denied an injury-time winner in controversial circumstances to leave Brendan Rodgers' side having to settle for a point after an entertaining 2-2 draw with Everton at Goodison Park.
A relentless opening half saw Liverpool grab a quick two goal lead through a Leighton Baines own goal and a Luis Suarez header before Everton produced a fine response to pull level with strikes from Leon Osman and Steven Naismith.
Reuters Luis Suarez was at the heart of the action in the Merseyside derby.
Luis Suarez was at the heart of the action in the Merseyside derby.
But after an even second period, Liverpool could and probably should have taken the spoils as Suarez’s close-range finished was ruled out for offside.
Looking to control the game with their short passing style, it was Liverpool that began the brighter in contrast to the two sides’ position in the Premier League table.
Liverpool got their reward too with two quick goals and perhaps inevitably after the criticism leveled at him before the match by Everton boss David Moyes, it was Suarez who played a key role in both.
After Jose Enrique and combined well with Suso down the left and fired low across goal, Suarez picked the ball up at the back post before taking a touch and firing it back across the face and seeing his effort take a fortunate deflection off of Leighton Baines and going beyond Tim Howard.
Never one to shun controversy, Suarez then promptly sprinted off in the direction of the Everton bench before diving in front of Moyes. The move seemed to light a fire in the match that burned brightly throughout the opening 45 minutes.
While Suarez would not be able to claim that goal, he made sure it was his name on the score sheet after 20 minutes. Steven Gerrard curled in a typically fine free kick from deep to the center of the box where Suarez’s run had been left completely unchecked and the Uruguayan got the faintest of glances to guide the ball inside the far post.
The frenetic action of the first half had only just got going as Everton began their fight back two minutes later.
After Marouane Fellaini’s shot had been deflected wide, Brad Jones punched the resulting corner straight to Osman on the edge of the box and the Everton stalwart drilled the ball low into the corner with the aid of a slight deflection off of Joe Allen.
The match was now being played at a ferocious tempo and Everton had firmly grabbed the ascendency. Summer signing Kevin Mirallas was causing plenty of problems down the left and there was no surprise that the second goal arrived down that side as Everton pulled level on 35 minutes.
Mirallas’ cross struck Fellaini at the near post, but with Liverpool’s defense motionless, the big-haired midfielder had time to gather and deliver a low ball across goal and Naismith was allowed to run in and side-foot the ball home from close range.
The threat from Mirallas was clear and with young Andre Wisdom receiving little help, the Belgian almost inflicted further damage on Liverpool as he drifted past his marker with ease before firing a left footed shot across goal that Jones had to parry away. Sadly from Everton’s point of view, that was to prove Mirallas’ last contribution as he was forced off through injury at the interval.
Liverpool were on the ropes heading into the break and it is to Rodgers’ credit that he made sweeping changes at half time with Sebastian Coates and Jonjo Shelvey coming on for Nuri Sahin and Suso and the side switching to a back three.
The move paid dividends for the visitors as they looked far more solid defensively. The change also meant the pace of Sterling being utilized through the middle, a threat that almost saw Liverpool retake the lead early in the second half.
A straightforward through ball by Enrique saw Sterling race clear of Jagielka and get one on one with Howard but, looking to open up his body, he got the shot all wrong and it looped tamely across goal.
Just moments later Everton could well have had a penalty as Baines chipped across goal from the byline and was taken down by a late challenge from Martin Skrtel.
While the action remained intense, with Suarez in particular receiving increasingly hostile reactions from the home support, the second-half lacked the goal-mouth action of the first.
A rare clear-cut chance saw Gerrard receive a knock back from Agger to the edge of the box before the Liverpool captain unleashed a powerful low drive that Jagielka did well to block in front of goal.
That looked like being the last meaningful action of the contest until drama right at the death. In the last minute of injury time, Coates headed a free-kick across the six yard box to his fellow Uruguayan Suarez to prod high into the net. Liverpool’s players ran off in jubilation only to be halted by a clearly erroneous offside flag that will likely be a frequent topic of conversation on Merseyside for some time.
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