Contentious call at heart of Merseyside Derby

Posted by James Martin

The Merseyside derby -- which ended in a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park -- generated enough talking points to fuel pub discussions for days. The first half was a crackling affair in which Liverpool got on the board twice before Everton tied the match before the break. The second half, on the other hand, is more of what we've come to expect from this derby, a cagier affair that devolved somewhat into a battle for each side trying to get the other carded, the crowd baying for blood with each tackle and foul.

So, without further ado, the highlights.

1. Be careful what you say
In the buildup to the match, David Moyes was taking jabs at Public Enemy No. 1, Luis Suarez. Well, if anything, the Everton manager's harsh words helped wind up Liverpool's striker -- as if Suarez actually needs any more winding up on the pitch. He created the first goal when he fired the ball into the box, which ended up deflecting off Leighton Baines for an own goal. This prompted one of the more memorable scenes from the match, as Suarez raced over to the touchline and did a mock dive right in front of Moyes. (Ironically, it was one of Moyes' players, Phil Neville, who would end up getting booked for simulation.) Suarez followed that up with another goal, and also scored at the death, or so it seemed, only to see the goal disallowed (more on that below). All in all, Suarez stood up to the pressure of the occasion.

2. Lopsided on the left
One of the clear battles that Everton was winning in this match was down the left, especially in the first half. Every time Kevin Mirallas got the ball, he was able to trouble stand-in right back Andre Wisdom. At 19, Wisdom was filling in for injured Glen Johnson, though questions will be asked as to whether Brendan Rodgers should have opted for more experience in the position, perhaps with Jamie Carragher, and especially given that five of his players (three of them teenagers) had never played in a Merseyside derby. Another, perhaps bigger, issue was Raheem Sterling's booking in the 29th minute. It pushed Suso to the right flank, and his inability to track back gave Baines and Mirallas tons of space to exploit and double team. Everton fans, meanwhile, know that if Steven Pienaar had been in the side -- he was serving a ban for a red card against QPR -- the Toffees would have really run riot down the left. As it turned out, Mirallas went off at halftime with a knock, and Rodgers' reshuffling of his back line, going to a three-man defense with Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates (on for Nuri Sahin), restored a semblance of balance and, with more help, Wisdom's play improved a bit, too.

3. The controversial call
The most contentious part of the match weren't the fouls -- referee Andre Marriner did a good job at not being overzealous with the cards, especially in the second half -- but the disallowed Suarez goal. After Leon Osman crashed into Steven Gerrard, Liverpool had a free kick. Gerrard sent the ball into the box, where Coates headed it down to Suarez, who scored. But as he took his victory lap, the sobering reality for Reds fans emerged: The linesman's flag had gone up to signal, it would seem, offside. Was Suarez offside? Replays show he was onside (it really wasn't even close). "Luis was level at minimum," manager Brendan Rodgers told the press afterward. "That should have been a goal and an outstanding hat-trick for Luis Suarez." It's enough to have Liverpool fans rightly crying foul.

ESPN Conversations