Wayne Rooney’s first Merseyside derby goal rescued a 1-1 draw for Everton at Anfield as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s selection gamble backfired.
It was a moment the 32-year-old had dreamed about ever since making his Toffees debut way back in August 2002 but, having had to wait after more than a decade at Manchester United, when it came it was something of a gift.
The pent-up frustration was evident in the way he smashed home a 77th-minute penalty — awarded after Dejan Lovren needlessly fouled Dominic Calvert-Lewin — to cancel out Mohamed Salah’s brilliant first-half strike and his celebration in front of the visiting fans was equally as exhuberant.
New Everton manager Sam Allardyce’s game plan had been an unambitious one but he would argue the ends justified the means as his tactics nullified a Liverpool attack — missing the rested Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino — which has scored 32 goals in the previous nine matches.
The Toffees may still be searching for their first win at Anfield since 1999 but this felt like a victory considering how much territory they conceded.
Salah’s 19th goal of the campaign in his 24th appearance seemed like it would open the floodgates.
The consistency of excellence which the Egypt international has delivered this season has been remarkable and it was another piece of individual brilliance which finally broke the deadlock.
Allardyce switched to 4-2-3-1 with Morgan Schneiderlin and Aarron Lennon replacing Tom Davies and Oumar Niasse at half-time, with Rooney pushed into a number 10 role having spent the opening 45 minutes doubling up on Mane with Kenny.
The change did little to alter the pattern of play with Salah heading wide soon after the restart before, with Klopp wary of his heavy workload, he was replaced by Firmino.
With Everton still offering little threat a long ball forward pitted Calvert-Lewin against Lovren and the Croatian defender’s incomprehensible decision to tangle with the youngster as he ran away from goal provided Rooney with the goal he so craved.