Liverpool, Everton draw in Gerrard's last Merseyside derby; EPL notes
The Los Angeles Galaxy started selling Steven Gerrard replica shirts on Friday. They look nice -- and for $205, they should -- but they aren’t red.
On Saturday, Liverpool’s captain was still wearing his lifelong colors as he appeared in his last Merseyside league derby.
Struggling Everton set out to smother Liverpool and largely succeeded. In a stodgy, sloppy, 0-0 draw, Gerrard’s appetite, enthusiasm and accuracy stood out. He attacked the game with the energy of a teenager.
This was not a fading veteran saving his legs in a holding role. Gerrard, playing just behind Raheem Sterling and later Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert, was in ceaseless motion, charging into the penalty area whenever Liverpool attacked.
Gerrard has scored 10 career goals against Everton. Even though there is a chance he might face the Toffees again in the Europa League, it was clear he wanted to leave the blue half of his city with one last unhappy memory. He came close after 53 minutes with an acrobatic leaping volley that clipped brave Steven Naismith’s head and deflected just over.
“I knew I got good contact on it,” Gerrard told Sky TV. “It would be a great way to round off possibly the last time here at Goodison.”
Gerrard curled a shot just wide near the end and also set up a clear late chance for Lambert with a deft flick. The vast majority of his touches were in the Everton half.
Liverpool can also take encouragement from the dynamism that a genuine teenager, Jordan Ibe, brought to its right flank. The 19-year-old came closest to scoring with a first-half drive against the post.
Liverpool’s defense kept its fourth straight clean sheet in the league, but the Reds have known for a while that Mamadou Sakho is a liability with the ball at his feet. Every time it was an adventure.
Normally an away point to a city rival is an acceptable result. Yet this was the result the home team wanted. Everton did not manage a shot on target until the 86th minute. The draw allowed Everton to pull further away from the bottom. It ended Liverpool’s recent mini surge toward the top four.
Asked how he rated the performance, Gerrard grimaced and said: “OK. I don’t think it was much better than that.”
He isn’t California dreaming quite yet.
“I will miss coming here, I will miss the Merseyside derby.”
HURRICANE IN NORTH LONDON
A 2-1 away loss might not sound like a thrashing, but Arsenal was blown away in the North London derby on Saturday by Harry Kane.
After Mesut Ozil volleyed the Gunners ahead in the 11th minute, they were barely in the game.
Humble Citizen Kane is adored by punsters as well as Spurs fans. On Saturday he again provided the cutting edge for Tottenham. Kane scored both goals with eerie anticipation and uncanny poise. Roy Hodgson, the England manager, was in the crowd. Immediately, the demands for a national call-up for a youngster who has made just 31 Premier League appearances intensified, led by Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger.
"When you have scored the number of goals he has scored, if you don't put him in there somebody else will give him a passport," Wenger manager told the BBC.
Sturridge, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, who was responsible for Arsenal’s two truly menacing moments, might object.
This was an even more impressive display than Tottenham’s 5-3 victory over Chelsea last month. Tottenham’s youngsters controlled the game against a team that traditionally makes midfield domination its first objective. For long periods, Arsenal, for all its attacking pace, could not escape its own half.
After giving Tottenham’s high-priced stars their chance as he instilled his tactics and built fitness, Mauricio Pochettino has gone with the energy of youth. The average age of Tottenham’s 10 outfield starters is 23 and a few months, with 27-year-old Jan Vertonghen the oldest.
Tottenham’s increased fitness has helped it scrape out a lot of narrow victories. When Kane scored his second with four minutes left, it meant Tottenham had picked up 12 points this season with goals after the 85th minutes. But the overall display, coupled with the 3-0 victory at West Brom a week earlier, suggested that the team has successfully ridden the learning curve. Pochettino’s tactics have come into focus. The pressing and passing were sharp and bright.
Up front, Kane was able to capitalize.
When the final whistle sounded at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, David Meyler bent down and beat the ground in frustration. Other Hull players pulled their shirts over their heads or held their faces in disbelief. Hull had just drawn, 1-1, away to the league champion, Manchester City, yet it was the visiting players who were disappointed.
Meyler had given the lead after 35 minutes, rolling the ball in after a sequence in which pretty much every City defender had wasted chances to clear. By then Ahmed Elmohamady had hit the woodwork for Hull. City was in shambles.
When Hull manager Steve Bruce removed Sone Aluko, his one quick attacker, after 66 minutes, he was essentially electing to spend the rest of the game simply defending. His team almost pulled it off.
Sergio Agüero hit the angle of post and bar with what would have been a typically breathtaking goal. Then, two minutes into added time, Tom Huddlestone needlessly balked Agüero outside the penalty area. James Milner swerved the free kick just inside the post to equalize.
Hull gained an unexpected point that lifted it out of the bottom three, but its players were heartbroken.
City escaped, but it has now gone five games, in all competitions, without a victory. Milner’s goal is the only one City has scored in its last three home games. After Chelsea did exactly what it needed to win at Villa Park, City is seven points behind the leader. It is only four ahead of Southampton in third. If Manchester United wins at West Ham on Sunday, that gap could be just three points.
“Every point you lose is more difficult for you,” said Manuel Pellegrini, told Sky when asked about Chelsea. “But in football you never know.”
The City manager is beginning to sound like a broken record.
Yaya Touré will be back soon. Yet, with the way United, Tottenham, Southampton and even Arsenal are playing, City might no longer be fighting for the title, but battling to finish in the top four.
When you are called Tetchi Jores Charlemagne Ulrich Okore, you don’t need to worry about making a name for yourself. Your parents have already taken care of that. Yet when Okore leveled for Aston Villa against Chelsea with his first shot in the Premier League, the Dane probably burned his name, or part of it, on the grateful memories of all the home fans.
The goal ended Villa’s 659-minute scoring drought. Villa still lost, 2-1, and is still only two points above the relegation zone. It will still struggle to score. But when Villa takes the field at Hull on Tuesday, its goalless streak will only be 37 minutes long. That will make a psychological difference.