Rooney's penalty saves Everton as Liverpool pay for missed chances
LIVERPOOL, England -- Three thoughts on Liverpool and Everton's 1-1 draw in the Premier League.
1. Liverpool let Everton off the hook
Christmas may be a time for giving, but there are limits. Liverpool dominated a Merseyside derby played out in seasonally appropriate snowfall, but squandered a lead they should have quadrupled long before Wayne Rooney's 77th-minute penalty saw the points shared.
No matter how soft the challenge, there was no need for Dejan Lovren to push Dominic Calvert-Lewin; the young English striker was heading away from goal. But Lovren's clumsiness was punished by referee Craig Pawson and the Liverpool man may wish to steer clear of social media for a few days.
Sam Allardyce will know that his team struck it lucky, but that won't hamper his enjoyment. He and Jurgen Klopp have clashed repeatedly since the German's arrival in the Premier League; Allardyce relishes results like this.
He rested the entire team -- himself included -- for their final Europa League game in midweek, but for much of this game his ploy offered no discernible benefit. Liverpool, meanwhile, were so confident that Klopp rested Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino and were never seriously troubled.
The hosts could have taken the lead long before Mohamed Salah's exceptional goal three minutes before half-time and they could have been three goals to the good before the break. The gap in quality between the two clubs has rarely looked so vast. And yet it meant nothing in the end.
Everton haven't won at Anfield since 1999 and Liverpool soon took control, pulling their guests out of shape with darting sorties all over the final third. Sadio Mane might have opened the scoring on nine minutes but slipped in the penalty area as he prepared to shoot. Joe Gomez, who was excellent throughout, powered down the right moments later and fed Salah. He lofted a perfect cross for Milner, whose explosive shot was charged down.
Salah's goal was a thing of beauty. Cuco Martina thought he had the Egyptian forward shackled but Salah picked the locks. Idrissa Gueye tried to get back to cover, but he'd been booked seconds earlier and hesitated having closed the gap. Salah took full advantage of his delay, sizing up the goal and whipping his shot over Ashley Williams and Jordan Pickford.
He came so close to adding another on the stroke of the break but his shot deflected over the bar by Williams' head. Mane should then have done better, dragging his shot wide after hurdling the luckless Williams and leaving him in the dust. Everton greeted the whistle like a punch drunk boxer, but the second half brought little respite.
Three minutes after the break, Salah was served a glorious cross by Milner, but could only head wide of the far post. Then Jonjoe Kenny saved the day for Everton, sliding in at the last to deny Mane after Dominic Solanke put him through on goal. Mane's spectacular overhead kick on the hour deserved a goal, but Pickford was well placed.
The introduction of Firmino saw a change to something approaching a 4-2-4, but then Liverpool somehow contrived to offer Everton a way back. Lovren lost the flight of the ball as it swirled through the snow and gave Calvert-Lewin a shove and Rooney made no mistake.
The Everton fans, dismayed until that moment at their team's lack of fight, were suddenly ecstatic. A blue flare burned brightly in the away end. In the home dugout, Klopp was altogether less enthused.
2. Allardyce searching for a system that works
Everton are an unbalanced squad and Allardyce had two cracks at redressing it. In the first half, there was a strange sort of 4-2-2-2, with Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson cutting in from the flanks ahead of Gueye and Tom Davies and behind Calvert-Lewin and Oumar Niasse.
It went so well that Allardyce was forced to make two changes at half-time, bringing on Aaron Lennon in a desperate search for width and Morgan Schneiderlin in a desperate search for some backbone. That didn't work either but, with Lovren in such generous mood, it didn't need to.
Until their goal, Everton offered so little that a 71st-minute corner brought the sort of roar from their fans that you'd usually hear for a goal. Allardyce, all too aware that this represented a rare opportunity to get back into the game, bellowed from the sideline for his players to push up. It came to nothing but, minutes later, a better opportunity presented itself. Simon Mignolet saved a Rooney penalty in 2015. Not this time.
There will be plenty more chopping and changing; Allardyce is a manager who wants a squad fit for purpose -- his purpose -- and he knows he won't always get such good fortune. This motley collection of mediocrity and assorted No. 10s is not exactly the sort of toolbox with which he usually works.
If you worked in Everton's human resources department, you'd do well to get your holiday time in now. There's going to be significant turnover.
3. Gomes and Robertson impress
Last month, Gomez won plaudits for his performance as one of three England centre-backs coping manfully with the Brazilian attack. He played as well in the centre at Wembley as he did here on the right. After the injury problems he has endured, it's a wonder that he's even still playing top-flight football, let alone improving all the time.
His forays down the right helped Salah find space, Gomez was rarely threatened going back and the only blot in his copybook was midway through the first half when he escaped a booking for catching Martina late on the touchline. Elsewhere, Andrew Robertson, emboldened by Everton's lack of threat on the right, was similarly impressive. Liverpool's full-backs deserved better than to walk away with just a single point.
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.