Naby Keita shines but Liverpool’s title celebrations may be pushed back after Everton stalemate

Naby Keita & Andre Gomes

Liverpool’s drab 0-0 draw with Everton this evening featured one shining light, in the form of the performance of the impressive Naby Keita.

Everton vs Liverpool

The latest edition of the Merseyside derby took place at Goodison Park a short time ago.

The matchup came as both sides’ first since March, on the back of the resumption of top-flight football in England following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Visitors Liverpool understandably headed into proceedings as heavy favourites to bag all 3 points, with the Reds’ league form having been close to flawless to this point in the campaign.

Despite Manchester City’s midweek victory over Arsenal, Jurgen Klopp’s men maintained a 22-point advantage over the chasing pack, leaving the champions-in-waiting requiring just 2 more wins to clinch their first title in 30 years.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 26: Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool celebrates scoring during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Liverpool FC at The King Power Stadium on December 26, 2019 in Leicester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus)

Everton, on the other hand, sat 13th in the Premier League table ahead of kick-off this evening.

The Toffees, for obvious reasons, though, no doubt entered the derby keen to defy the odds, to make their city rivals’ wait for glory just a little bit longer.

Reds held

And, when all was said and done, this is precisely what Carlo Ancelotti’s men managed.

An altogether lacklustre affair, during which Liverpool unsurprisingly dominated possession, saw the Reds nevertheless struggle to break down a resolute Everton backline.

The best of the first-half’s chances fell to Roberto Firmino, with the South American having wasted a promising breakaway for the visitors by pulling a low effort beyond Jordan Pickford’s far post from the edge of the box.

And proceedings following the interval did not exactly prove much more inspired.

Everton, to their credit, executed their game plan to perfection, with the Toffees’ two blocks of 4 having proven extremely difficult to break down, and the attacking duo of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison providing a consistent threat in behind.

As such, it came as little surprise when it was this pair who combined to create the hosts’ best chance of the evening.

With a little over 10 minutes remaining, and Liverpool looking in control of proceedings, an Everton breakaway saw Andre Gomes slip Richarlison in down the left.

The Brazilian international squared up substitute Dejan Lovren, before rolling the ball across to strike partner Calvert-Lewin.

And the latter’s inventive flick was only kept out courtesy of a fine save from Alisson.

Tom Davies’ follow-up then looked destined for the bottom corner, only for the slightest of touches from Joe Gomez to take the ball onto the post and to safety.

This was, in truth, the only clear-cut opportunity of the entire 90 minutes, with both sides having eventually been forced to settle for a share of the spoils.

Keita shines

This evening’s result means that Liverpool’s chance to mathematically secure the Premier League title with a victory over Crystal Palace on Wednesday night looks to have passed.

With Manchester City set to take on Burnley in the Citizens’ game in hand at the Etihad tomorrow night, and Pep Guardiola’s men widely expected to secure all 3 points, the long overdue title celebrations on the part of the Reds may need to wait just a little longer.

As outlined above, though, while there weren’t exactly a host of positives to take away from the derby from a Liverpool perspective, one shining light at Goodison came in the form of Naby Keita’s performance.

Guinean dynamo Keita was given the nod over Gini Wijnaldum at the heart of Jurgen Klopp’s midfield, with the former RB Leipzig man having gone on to take full advantage of the opportunity afforded to him.

Keita looked, by some distance, the visitors’ standout performer during his hour on the pitch, linking defence to attack, bursting forward with intent at every opportunity, and adding some desperately needed energy to an otherwise flat outing.

The 25-year-old’s heavy influence on proceedings was evidenced by the fact that Liverpool’s flow essentially fell apart following his substitution early in the second-half.

And this was clearly a viewpoint shared by fans of the champions-elect, with some of the social media reaction to Keita’s derby display showcased below:

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This article was edited by Josh Barker.

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