Romelu Lukaku, Everton fail to deliver against Liverpool once again
A chance for Everton to rubber stamp Champions League hopes instead saw them end with 3-1 defeat in the Merseyside derby. This was the latest example of the gulf and mental block that still exists for the Toffees in both derbies and away games against the top-six teams.
An outnumbered and overwhelmed midfield left a trio of slow central defenders continually exposed as Liverpool easily exploited gaps in front of the Everton back line. While the importance of Seamus Coleman and Morgan Schneiderlin told in their absence, teammates flattered to deceive as an inexperienced and one-paced team once again failed to deliver in the derby. This was business as usual in this fixture.
This biannual exercise in futility and misery is over for another season.
Even when Matthew Pennington restored parity in the first half, his equaliser never felt like anything more than the temporary reprieve it proved. Three minutes later, Liverpool regained the lead.
Set pieces were the only time Everton threatened a creaky home defence. Despite arriving armed with the league's top scorer, there appeared no plan of attack beyond long balls toward an isolated Romelu Lukaku. Players rarely sought possession or created space.
Aside from a moment of Lukaku brilliance in the draw at Manchester City, manager Ronald Koeman has seen his team offer scant attacking threat in matches away to the top-six. In defeat at Chelsea, the Blues registered one shot and none on target in the match.
Irrespective of any mitigating factors, be it injuries or a squad that is still a work in progress, Koeman has to make Everton competitive in these matches, especially with a trip to Old Trafford on Tuesday.
5 -- While troubles in these games are nothing new, question marks remain over Koeman's choices in these tough away matches. Misfiring tactics and overall team performance echoed defeats away to Tottenham and Chelsea.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Joel Robles, 4 -- Suspect positioning for the first goal, and while blameless for the second, the Everton goalkeeper seemed to void all his senses for the Liverpool third. Good save late on rendered meaningless by what preceded it.
DF Matthew Pennington, 4 -- Obvious high of scoring his first Everton goal in the Merseyside derby faded amid a chastening afternoon. On his first start of the season, the surprise inclusion found himself tormented by Philippe Coutinho throughout.
DF Ashley Williams, 4 -- Pace of the game appeared too quick for him as Liverpool preyed on his lack of pace. Chasing shadows for Sadio Mane's opener and self-destructed on the spot for the Divock Origi goal which ended the match as a contest,
DF Phil Jagielka, 5 -- Saw his waning pace painfully uncovered by Emre Can in one particular passage of play. Less culpable than his fellow centre-backs and headed a saved Coutinho effort off the line in the first half.
MF Mason Holgate, 6 -- Despite his defensive role, operating at wing-back and then right-back later on, the 20-year-old exhibited more in the final third than most of his attack-minded teammates.
MF Tom Davies, 4 -- Offered energy and some nice touches early on but eventually sank under constant pressure in a role beyond his current capabilities. Marshalling the defence is not his game.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 5 -- Fighting a losing battle as the only real protection for a wilting defence, this lack of support perhaps accounts for his rash missed tackles in the build-up to the first two Liverpool goals.
MF Leighton Baines, 6 -- Some errant early passing aside, one of a very select few to emerge with any credit, Baines pushed forward whenever possible and actually stood up to the task unlike too many of those around him.
MF Ross Barkley, 5 -- A ridiculous level of hysteria attached to his performance in the aftermath. Fortunate to stay on the pitch and little of what he tried worked, but Barkley was one of the few trying to influence the game and never hid while others cowered away.
MF Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 4 -- Unable to repay the faith shown by his manager, the 20-year-old forward has potential but was anonymous in a more withdrawn role behind Lukaku.
MF Romelu Lukaku, 4 -- No shots of any kind tells the story of an ineffective 90 minutes. Isolated and starved of service, but these sort of games always raise the question on whether Lukaku does enough when the team are not performing well.
MF Enner Valencia, 5 -- Pace livened up a previously sterile attack but that alone was not enough to affect the outcome.
MF Gareth Barry, 5 -- A start was perhaps out of the question due to Liverpool's speed through the middle third, but Everton missed his playmaking ability and composure.
MF Kevin Mirallas, N/R -- Good recent form warranted more than an eight-minute outing after the game had already gone. Driving run and shot marked a rare moment of incision from the away side.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.