Everton youngsters shine in Merseyside derby draw

Posted by Luke O'Farrell



Absolute madness is probably the best description of the 221st edition of the Merseyside derby. Both managers launched the defensive manual out the dressing room window; the two sides barely stopped for breath in their quest for victory, although the match eventually ended in a 3-3 draw.

One second-half incident, in particular, typified the match. Everton poured into the Liverpool half at the same breakneck speed prevalent throughout. Romelu Lukaku led a three-on-two counter attack, but his mishit pass ended the move.

Regaining possession, Liverpool returned the favour and Tim Howard barely kept out a Luis Suarez header. This all happened in around 60 seconds, as if to reinforce the separation of this derby from those in the not too distant past.

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Recent instalments of this storied fixture witnessed an Everton side favouring experience and doggedness over youthful exuberance. Old heads filled the side, extra defenders packed the midfield, and then the processional march towards defeat would begin.

Similar tactics never seemed likely under Roberto Martinez though, and so it proved, with the new manager entrusting younger players whenever possible. Led by the excellent, tireless duo of James McCarthy and Ross Barkley, Everton fell agonisingly short of the three points that their overall performance merited.

Exuding confidence and fearlessness in possession, there was no sign of the occasion overawing Barkley, who impressed in two contrasting positions: his usual advanced role and then central midfield. Even so, his failure to track Daniel Sturridge for the third Liverpool goal is a reminder of the learning curve Barkley is undertaking.

The late leveller aside, Barkley headed a youthful quartet who belied their age and inexperience in their first taste of this historic fixture. Another of the quartet, McCarthy, who was alongside Barkley in the second half, excelled.

Assertive on the ball, which was previously one of the few criticisms of the midfielder; McCarthy also buzzed around in his customary fashion and refused to give those in red a moment's peace.

While the others started, the third member of this group arrived as a substitute. However, despite turning up late to this exciting party, there was still ample time for Gerard Deulofeu to leave his impression on proceedings. The Barcelona loanee missed one golden chance, and the decision-making warrants fine-tuning, but this was the clearest sign of his potential yet.

In the cauldron of the derby, the young winger continually sought out possession to run at the Liverpool backline. The fleetness of foot and mind leading to regular visits to the by-line was a remarkable sight.

Romelu Lukaku first goal Everton LiverpoolPA PhotosRomelu Lukaku slides the ball home to make it 2-2.

Rounding off this foursome is Romelu Lukaku. Like Barkley, the failure to track a man marred his display -- Philippe Coutinho easily slipped his attentions for the opening goal -- but the rest of his work left onlookers purring.

There was something Duncan Ferguson-esque about the towering header that looked to have crowned the Everton comeback, while the side-footed equaliser further demonstrated his finishing ability.

Elsewhere, Kevin Mirallas provided an overdue glimpse of his talents. Grabbing the first Everton equaliser amid the manic start, the Belgian also added the assist for the third. There was an unsightly first-half tackle, though Evertonians will argue they are due a favourable derby decision or two.

Nevertheless, for all the attacking qualities evident, the set piece defending actually beggared belief, especially from those in blue. The first and third visiting goals stemmed from a failure to carry out basic marking, and, frankly, the second would look out of place at amateur level.

Why was the wall not covering the post? Just what exactly was Steven Pienaar doing? There is no disputing the quality of the strike from Luis Suarez, but Everton ought to have done more to prevent it. Few would believe it was nearly six hours without conceding for the Toffees before the derby on this evidence.

Along with the set pieces, the injury to Leighton Baines is an additional concern; the left-back requires a scan on his foot injury. However, the Baines injury did allow Martinez to highlight his positive approach. Deulofeu replacing Baines and the ensuing tactical reshuffle was a welcome, ambitious move, with Gareth Barry filling in at left-back.

Overall, considering the performance, the result had an air of disappointment attached to it, but the bigger picture came into view. (Set pieces asides) this was the performance that Martinez needed. The inferiority complex took a backseat; Everton demonstrated both their ability and their potential.

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