At a snowy Anfield, controversy arose quickly and dominated the final stretch of the 229th Merseyside Derby. When it looked like Liverpool was on their way to a win over their rivals in blue, a penalty was called in the 77th minute to put Everton back to a 1-1 draw.

The start of the game took on a rather expected outcome. Liverpool dominated the attacking and kept the ball primarily in their attacking half. Everton was doing all they could to defend like they never defended before, trying to keep things scoreless and awaiting their one chance at a win.

The first half stats showed that Everton was struggling to put two passes together. With a 52% pass accuracy rate and just 54 completed passes at halftime, Opta pointed out that Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson had more completed passes than the entire Everton side.

And with Liverpool sending strike after strike to Jordan Pickford, it would seem like they would score on one of those chances. That took place in the 42nd minute. Mohamed Salah kept up his massive goalscoring form to score his 19th goal in his 24th game as a Liverpool player.

Liverpool could’ve doubled the lead right before halftime had Sadio Mane crossed over to one of the two open Liverpool players. He decided to shoot at goal, missed wide right and that would come back to haunt them.

Everton never really got anything resembling an attack throughout the game but they did get their opportunity in the 76th minute. Dominic Calvert-Lewin got to the ball in front of Dejan Lovren. Lovren had his hand on Calvert-Lewin’s back and appeared Calvert-Lewin stopped to initiate contact and went to the ground to win the penalty.

It certainly seemed like a soft penalty. There definitely was contact, there’s no disputing that. But when referee Craig Pawson has a perfect look at the play and doesn’t see that it’s the attacker who’s initiating the contact and not the defender, that leads to making a bad call as it was there. Wayne Rooney converted with a hard struck shot right down the middle of the goal. And the game ended 1-1.

Certainly, this result is going to benefit Everton much more than Liverpool. Liverpool had a chance to get up to 3rd with a win but Everton with a draw has moved them up to 10th, mere weeks after floating just above the relegation zone. Sam Allardyce went in with his strategy and while they got a fortunate call, succeeded with an away point against their hated rival.

On Liverpool’s end, much talk will be placed on the penalty but more talk will be placed on why Jurgen Klopp didn’t start Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino in favor of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke for this important game. On the surface, it would cause much criticism but that wasn’t why Liverpool failed to get the win.

The move was a risk but too many people are going to use the result to fuel their view of the moves and not the moves themselves and that makes things look worse. Liverpool had a Champions League game where they needed a result to advance to the Round of 16. As much as an important game Everton is, qualifying for the knockout stage for the Champions League is much more important. Everton had a Europa League game too but they had been eliminated months ago so they didn’t need to play the starters.

Add that English teams are set to enter the busy festive season where teams will be playing all the time, why not toss a wrench into things by giving one or two of your starters a rest and if you needed them, bring them in fresh to hopefully try and break Everton’s inevitable wall of ten players behind the ball. Take the result out it and it’s not as bad of a plan as people thought it would be.

We don’t really have to wait long for the next Merseyside Derby. The two teams come back to Anfield January 5 for the FA Cup third round. The stakes may not be as high there as in the Premier League but if today is any indication, neither team will want to lose.

About Phillip Bupp

News and soccer editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. I also do video highlight game coverage for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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