Thoughts on Liverpool 1-1 Everton

Phil Jagielka's incredible stoppage time volley gave Everton a share of the spoils at Anfield after Steven Gerrard put Liverpool ahead with a vintage 65th minute free kick.

The most interesting tactical feature of the match was in the wide areas- Roberto Martinez played Romelu Lukaku wide on the right and kept him high up the pitch and Brendan Rodgers played Raheem Sterling wide on the left to use his pace to run at 33 year old Everton right back Tony Hibbert, making his first league start in over 600 days.

Lukaku wide right

Using Lukaku wide on the right has become a more common feature of Martinez's lineups this season. He used it for the first time last season in Everton's 3-0 win over Arsenal, a game in which Lukaku terrorized Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen on the left side of Arsenal's defense and employed it again in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal this season.

Everton used a 4-3-3 shape today with Gareth Barry sitting in front of the back four with Muhamed Besic and James McCarthy either side of him. They defended with a midfield bank of four- James McCarthy slid to the widest position on the right of the midfield four, responsible for tracking Liverpool left back Alberto Moreno. This allowed Lukaku to stay higher up the pitch in a position down the right channel, free from the responsibility of running with Moreno. Moreno plays high up the pitch when Liverpool are in possession, meaning he was leaving space in behind him on Liverpool's left. Everton looked to play quick outlet passes into Lukaku in this area. Those outlet passes forced Dejan Lovren to move into the channels to close Lukaku down, leaving a gap of space between himself and Martin Skrtel. Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas (then Aiden McGeady when Mirallas went off injured) were responsible for making runs from deeper positions into that gap to finish off moves.

There were a few moments in the first half when Everton looked dangerous employing that strategy but for the most part Moreno did well to make recovery runs and Lovren did enough when forced to close Lukaku down in the channels. Everton were certainly hurt by the injury to Mirallas. He's far more dynamic with his runs from outside to in than is McGeady. They lacked the threat of his direct vertical running and willingness to get into the box.

Sterling vs Hibbert

Raheem Sterling has typically played at the top of a midfield diamond for Liverpool this season but with Daniel Sturridge still missing through injury, Rodgers opted to play a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 shape. Adam Lallana played behind Mario Balotelli in the #10 role with Sterling taking up a position on the left wing. It was easy to see Rodgers' thinking- with Hibbert in the side at right back for Everton Sterling had a massive speed advantage down that side and was expected to run at Hibbert at every opportunity. Hibbert was beaten for pace on a few occasions but fared reasonably well considering how infrequently he's played over the last two seasons. However, Liverpool could have killed the game off when Sterling easily dribbled past the Everton right back and crossed for Balotelli only for his effort to be saved brilliantly onto the bar by Tim Howard.

Final thoughts

For a Merseyside derby, this was surprisingly a slow burner, particularly given the attacking nature of both managers. Both sides were reasonably compact throughout meaning it never really opened up and we didn't get the loud roars from the crowd usually heard in the closing stages of big derbies. Lukaku and Balotelli both mistimed headers that could have led to goals and Balotelli hit the bar but aside from that there were few really clear cut chances. Both goals came from moments of individual skill rather than brilliant team play.