Liverpool failed to get their title campaign back on track by drawing 0-0 with Everton at Anfield, and are not even top of the tree on Merseyside going into Christmas.
Everton remain ahead of their neighbours after collecting a deserved point with the teams fourth and fifth respectively in the Premiership.
Liverpool have now collected only two points from their last seven games and these are anxious times for manager Gerard Houllier.
It could have been much worse if Wayne Rooney's thunderbolt which struck the crossbar 15 minutes from time, via a deflection off Stephane Henchoz, had gone in.
The first chance fell to Liverpool after eight minutes when they won a corner on the right taken by Danny Murphy, who found John Arne Riise 25 yards from goal. The Norwegian rattled in a fierce volley but Everton goalkeeper Richard Wright got his body behind the ball and made a clean save.
Liverpool defender Djimi Traore incurred the first yellow card two minutes later when he bundled over Lee Carsley.
The early stages were, as expected, frenetic with players having difficulty settling on the ball.
Reds defender Henchoz then clearly handled the ball in the area but was awarded a free-kick as he had been fouled by Tomasz Radzinski.
Everton midfielder Thomas Gravesen followed Traore into the book after 22 minutes for hauling back Steven Gerrard.
Murphy found Michael Owen with a free-kick but he only succeeded in steering a header wide.
Then Riise went on a mazy run and tried his luck at goal only to see his effort blocked by Everton defender Alan Stubbs.
Radzinski squandered a good chance in the 36th minute when Weir flicked on a low throw from Gravesen. The Canadian was clear at the far post but steered his shot wide from close range.
Liverpool hit back and Murphy played a short corner to Gerrard. He drove the ball across the face of the area to Riise but he made a hash of his shot and failed to test Wright.
Then Gerrard strode forward and cracked in a 25-yard shot which Wright did well to save.
Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland had to look lively to turn over Carsley's inswinging shot before play switched to the other end. Wright was on his toes to turn away a 20-yard effort from Riise after a surging run from the Norwegian.
Everton carved out the first chance of the second half when Mark Pembridge found Carsley, but he was off balance and failed to test Kirkland with a header.
Houllier made a double substitution in the 53rd minute, introducing Vladimir Smicer and Emile Heskey for Salif Diao and Traore.
Heskey almost made an immediate impact with his downward header from Gerrard's free-kick going wide.
Rooney was eventually sent on in the 55th minute when he replaced Radzinski and the Everton fanatic, from nearby Croxteth, showed he was not fazed by his derby debut.
He clattered into Kirkland in a race for the ball, leaving the Liverpool goalkeeper dazed.
Heskey missed another good chance in the 61st minute when his touch let him down after Gerrard had played a free-kick over the top.
But Everton were playing with much authority and there was another scare for Liverpool in the 65th minute. Industrious Pembridge delivered an inswinging corner which breached the home defence and substitute Steve Watson was only inches away from getting a vital touch.
Rooney almost broke the deadlock in the 74th minute with a thunderous drive from the edge of the area. The ball deflected off Henchoz and beat Kirkland but struck the crossbar and went over.
The game threatened to boil over in the 87th minute when Gary Naysmith was left in agony after a two-footed challenge from Gerrard near the touchline.
Everton striker Kevin Campbell, booked three minutes earlier for a late challenge on Gerrard, squared up to the England midfielder and other players from both sides got involved, but the situation calmed down and the game finished with honours even.
Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard produced an ugly-looking two-footed challenge
on Gary Naysmith in the second half which prompted a heated confrontation
between both sets of players - but manager Gerard Houllier said he had not seen the tackle clearly.
However, he appeared to suggest that he was expecting the Football
Association's video panel to be called to look at the challenge - which referee
Graham Poll did not punish - with disciplinary action against his England
midfielder to follow.
'From what I saw I didn't see anything reprehensible. All the officials did
not see anything wrong but with the video it is something different. It does not
'I will speak to Gerrard but he said to me he didn't want to hurt him
(Naysmith). It has happened in other games and players have got a fine - maybe he
(Gerrard) will get a fine as well.'
Houllier was not disappointed by the effort of his players in what he described as a typical Liverpool-Everton game.
'Derbies are always like that, a lot of possession, commitment and physically demanding,' he told Sky Sports. 'On the back of the Villa game (Liverpool's injury-time Worthington Cup victory in midweek) - which was also demanding - I am proud of the players.
'I am pleased we stood up and managed to get at least a clean sheet. I thought we wanted more movement in midfield and that showed we wanted to win the game. The substitutions had an influence on the game.
'Our second half performance was much better than the first. We could have done better with the ball when we attacked and probably taken more of a chance but you can't say that the players didn't want to do right with the effort. It is a very difficult game for a derby game.
'We are in a period where we have to overcome a lack of confidence. But we have put an end to getting defeated. You have to keep your head up -
if you want to be champions you have to overcome that situation.
'We are sixth in the table seven points off Arsenal so the game against them
next weekend is a big game.'
Everton's teenage striker Wayne Rooney proved today he is not over-awed by the
big stage. Manager David Moyes was delighted with the precocious youngster's
'I am sure Wayne enjoyed the experience,' he said. 'Some of his pals would
be shouting for him, some would be shouting at him. I did think he had scored but the goalkeeper managed to deflect the ball onto the bar.'
Moyes was full of praise for his team, who are showing they can compete with
'We have come to Anfield and made it difficult for Liverpool, which is
pleasing,' he said. 'I think we are in our position in the table on merit now. We have the
'It was a tight game and I don't think either goalkeeper was really that