If it wasn’t for bad luck, Liverpool would have no luck.
After the 7-2 drubbing away to Aston Villa, the Reds produced an excellent performance in their 2-2 Merseyside Derby draw at Goodison Park.
Despite not winning the game, the defending champions can be happy with the elements of the game — control, passing, attacking — the majority of which they impressed in.
Beggaring belief, ALL the big refereeing calls went in the favor of Everton — Jordan Pickford inexplicably escaping a red card for a horror challenge on Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson’s late winner being adjudged offside even though, demonstrably, he was on onside — and yet, the table-toppers could only claw onto a draw against their neighbors.
Everything, from the injury to van Dijk to the horrendous officiating, Everton’s strong form and the fact that — given how superstitious many football fans can be — it was ten years to the day to the Toffees’ last Merseyside derby win, pointed towards the home side winning.
And yet, Liverpool — who were afflicted by COVID-19 cases to Sadio Mane, Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita, who had more players away on international duty ahead of a stupidly scheduled early kick-off on a Saturday — were by far the better side and, only for bad luck and bad officialdom, would have won that game nine times out of ten.
Positives were abound for Jurgen Klopp to take. In their first game starting as a trio, Henderson, Thiago, and Fabinho excelled in the midfield. Henderson’s passing and physicality was sublime, mirrored by Fabinho and Thiago — in his first start for the club AND after only recovering from COVID-19 — was luminous.
The Spaniard dictated the tempo, broke the lines by both passing and dribbling — using his rhythmic feints to skip away from would-be challenges — and had a beautiful hockey assist — a no-look pass which found Mane to assist Henderson for what should have been the winner — robbed from him by shoddy officiating.
Dropping such a performance in these circumstances, whet the Liverpool faithful’s appetite for what Thiago can do in the future.
Mane and Mohamed Salah, who both started this campaign in fine fettle, continued their good form with a goal apiece and — added to that — strong link-up play and — once again, focusing on the awful VAR utilization — what would have been an excellent, left-footed assist for the Senegalese star.
Salah, whose goal was a brilliantly executed volley into the bottom corner, proved he is much more than just a goalscorer and his pass, finding Andy Robertson on the left flank, opened up Everton and lead to the Reds’ first goal.
Away from the game, the draw leaves the Reds — at the time of writing — in third place in the table. Sure, there’s been a draw and a loss — in record fashion — but, given the difficulty of the fixtures — Chelsea and Everton away and Arsenal and Leeds at home — and the context of the season — injuries to Alisson, the hard opening set of fixtures and the worst refereeing you’re likely to see anywhere — then ten points from five games is a more than decent return.
Barring Villa — which should be consigned as a freak result — Liverpool have played well in four of their five games and in each of those occasions, the final score flattered the opponents.
It is sure to be a wild season, whose crazily compacted schedule will mad result, but so far the Reds have looked the best side of the lot on balance.
Going forward, assuming the injuries to van Dijk and Thiago — both borne from horrific challenges — Liverpool are in a great place to retain their title.