Liverpool and Everton share spoils in entertaining Merseyside derby amid further VAR controversy

Liverpool and Everton shared the spoils on Saturday in a tense but thrilling Merseyside derby, as Carlo Ancelotti’s side twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw.

Michael Keane’s thumping header midway through the first half had canceled out Sadio Mane’s early opener, before Mo Salah looked to have snatched an undeserved victory for Liverpool in the second half.

But with just 10 minutes remaining, Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin continued his scintillating run of form with a spectacular towering header to ensure the bragging rights in the first derby of the season didn’t go to the red half of the city.

However, the main talking point came soon after Mane had opened the scoring, as Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford looked set to receive a red card for a late challenge on Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, but was saved as the whistle had already gone for a narrow offside decision.

Everton was eventually reduced to 10 men late in the game, as Richarlison was shown a deserved red card for a reckless challenge on Thiago.

In the dying moments of stoppage time, captain Jordan Henderson thought he had found Liverpool a winning goal, but Mane was adjudged to be an arm hair’s width offside in the buildup.

Lopsided rivalry

Liverpool, intent on putting that humiliating 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa behind it, began the game at breakneck speed and found a deserved early breakthrough after just three minutes.

Salah’s fortuitous pass found Andy Robertson on the left wing and the fullback cut the ball into the box for Mane to steer into the roof of the net.

Going into this match, many believed it was Everton’s best chance of a win for several years in the Merseyside derby, one of English football’s most lopsided rivalries in recent times.

Liverpool was unbeaten in 22 games against its city rival — the longest unbeaten run either team has ever recorded in this fixture — and this match looked to be following a familiar pattern.

But Everton has enjoyed an impressive resurgence this season under new coach Ancelotti and found itself on top of the Premier League after four matches.

Some impressive signings, such as the purchases of James Rodriguez and Allan, were thanks largely to the influence and pull of its new Italian coach, widely regarded as one of Europe’s most astute tactical minds.

Red card controversy

Both goalkeepers, Liverpool back-up Adrian and Everton’s No. 1 Pickford, have been much-maligned in recent times for a string of poor performances and going into the match many felt an error from either one of them could decide this Merseyside derby.

That certainly looked to be case just moments after Mane had given Liverpool the lead, as Pickford hacked Van Dijk down in the penalty area. It was a late, reckless challenge and one that caused the Dutch defender’s knee to twist awkwardly, with his foot caught in the turf.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) ruled that Van Dijk was just inches offside and Pickford and Everton breathed a sigh of relief, as the foul coming after the offside decision meant the goalkeeper couldn’t be penalized.

It raises questions about a law that allows players to make rash, dangerous challenges as long as the whistle has already been blown, and Liverpool had further reason to feel aggrieved as Van Dijk was forced to limp off with an injury.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were left to rue the absence of its main defender just 15 minutes later, as Everton’s Keane rose highest in the box to head home James Rodriguez’s corner for the equalizer.

That goal changed the entire complexion of the half and Liverpool — now without its first choice goalkeeper, Alisson, and defender — was once again looking shaky on defense.

This game looked to be there for the taking for either side, but both teams came out in the second half looking nervous and tentative.

Colombian playmaker Rodriguez had been by a considerable distance the best player on the pitch and his vision and passing were causing Liverpool all sorts of problems.

Yet another glorious cross into the box this time found Richarlison, but the Brazilian forward could only direct his header onto the outside of the post.

But just when Everton was looking the most likely to take the lead, Liverpool stunned the home side as Mo Salah brilliantly smashed home the loose ball after Yerry Mina’s botched attempt at a clearance.

Liverpool looked to be heading for all three points, before Calvert-Lewin towered in the box to head Lucas Digne’s cross past the outstretched arm of Adrian to earn Everton a point and retain its place at the top of the Premier League.

With a man advantage following Richarlison’s dismissal in the 90th minute, Liverpool pressed to find the winner and thought it had secured all three points at the death.

Thiago’s stunning pass found Mane inside the box and the forward squared the ball for Henderson to sweep past Pickford into the net. However, after a lengthy VAR consultation, Mane was deemed to be offside by the finest of margins.

It was a fitting end to a tight and, at times, controversial Merseyside derby.

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