LIVERPOOL (AFP) – Everton captain Phil Jagielka’s stunning late shot ensured a 1-1 draw with Liverpool in the Merseyside derby at Anfield on Saturday.
Earlier, Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard scored his 10th goal in 32 derbies with a fine free-kick to give the home side a 65th-minute lead.
However, the first minute of injury-time saw Jagielka draw Everton level with a spectacular long-range goal.
Liverpool were without striker Daniel Sturridge, who failed to recover from a thigh injury in time to face the Toffees, so Mario Balotelli led the line for Brendan Rodgers’s side.
Everton right-back Seamus Coleman was still suffering from concussion, so veteran Tony Hibbert started his first league game start since December 2012.
For all that Rodgers and Everton boss Roberto Martinez are known for encouraging a quick passing game, the early moments of this match resembled an ‘old-fashioned’ derby.
Tackles flew in and there were penalty shouts at both ends of the pitch as Everton’s Romelu Lukaku went down in the area under pressure from Alberto Moreno, before Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling’s shot struck the hand of Toffees midfielder Gareth Barry.
Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, culpable for two mistakes in the recent 3-2 defeat by Crystal Palace, then produced two fine saves to deny Liverpool.
First he reacted to push Mario Balotelli’s deflected free-kick from distance past the post, and from the resulting corner the United States international dived to his right to brilliantly save boyhood Everton fan turned Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana’s header.
Everton grew in confidence and a dangerous run from Leighton Baines just before the half-hour mark caught the Liverpool defence on the back foot, but Lukaku was unable to get on the end of his cross into the six-yard box.
The visitors suffered a setback soon afterwards when Kevin Mirallas pulled up clutching the back of his leg and was replaced by Aiden McGeady.
The petty squabbles re-appeared in the early stages of the second half, punctuated briefly by Sterling’s deft ball over the top of the Everton defence for Lazar Markovic, who fell to the ground meekly before he could shoot.
Everton’s Steven Naismith forced a smart save from Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet on the hour.
However it was the hosts who opened the scoring from a free-kick minutes later after Balotelli had been fouled on the edge of the box by Baines.
Gerrard’s curling effort dipped over the Everton defensive wall, and even though Howard got a hand to the ball he could not stop it hitting the back of the net. Liverpool almost doubled their lead when Balotelli rattled the crossbar after he got on the end of Sterling’s cross from the left.
Italy striker Balotelli then flashed a speculative effort at goal with 10 minutes left.
However, Everton equalised in injury-time when Jagielka latched on to Dejan Lovren’s headed clearance and saw his sweetly-struck serving shot from 25 yards out fly past the diving Mignolet.
And the Kop breathed a sigh of relief at the death when Barry’s audacious backheel from a free-kick only struck the side netting.