Daniel Sturridge only played the last 11 minutes of this match but in that time he saw Romelu Lukaku give Everton the lead to complete what appeared to be a dramatic comeback, before cancelling it out with a header of his own a minute from the end. It was that sort of Merseyside derby, pulsating and full of incident. Even in the four minutes of added time, it could still have gone either way. Forget the notion that derbies are usually tense, cagey affairs. This was one of the games of the season.
"A brilliant game, it had everything," Brendan Rodgers said. "Magnificent," offered derby debutant Roberto Martínez. "It was an outstanding effort from my players, even if it was disappointing to concede three goals at dead-ball situations."
To start at the beginning, it took derby veteran Steven Gerrard under five minutes to make an impression, both supplying the 50-yard crossfield pass that Seamus Coleman headed out of play then taking the corner from which Philippe Coutinho put Liverpool ahead at the far post. Luis Suárez nudged the ball in Coutinho's direction, for the Brazilian to control smartly and shoot hard and low.
Everton needed to respond quickly and they did, getting back on terms three minutes later, when Ross Barkley touched on a Leighton Baines free-kick for Kevin Mirallas to hook in. Barkley showed some wonderful touches as Everton attacked with imagination for the rest of the half, and a more composed finish by Lukaku might have put them into the lead after Steven Pienaar had dispossessed Gerrard, yet for all their promise going forward the home side allowed themselves to be undone by another lapse of concentration in defence. First Gareth Barry gave away an unnecessary free kick by barging over Suárez, then as the Uruguayan shaped to take a shot at goal from 25 yards out Pienaar inexplicably stood a couple of feet wide of the wall. Suárez needed no further invitation and duly drove the ball through the gap, leaving Tim Howard no time to get across.
After three goals in the first 20 minutes the game settled down to a slightly more sedate pace before the interval, though Phil Dowd still had his work cut out keeping order on the pitch. Shortly after correctly booking Barkley for a dive the referee's biggest challenge arrived when Mirallas went studs up on Suárez, catching him above the knee. It looked as though the fixture was going to live up to its reputation for producing red cards, and Mirallas could have had no complaints, though after a protracted delay and lengthy discussion, with Suárez all the while writhing on the floor, Dowd opted for a lenient yellow.
If that was a stroke of luck Everton were even luckier in the second half, when Joe Allen made his contribution to derby folklore with what may well be the miss of the season. Suárez had done all the hard work, dribbling through the Everton defence so that when the ball broke to Allen in the penalty area there was no one left to stop him and only Howard to beat. Astonishingly, he managed to miss the target from 12 yards out.
Everton could have equalised when Martínez threw on Gerard Deulofeu for Baines and saw the teenager break clear to force a save from Simon Mignolet. While it was a decent stop Deulofeu should probably have done better, and the same was true of subsequent Mignolet saves from the substitute and twice from Lukaku.
Just when it appeared Everton might never find a way through, Lukaku found his range. After testing Mignolet from a free-kick the striker moved up and was in position when the ball was worked in from the left to supply a finish from near the penalty spot. At 2-2 the game would have swung Liverpool's way but for a terrific reaction save by Howard to keep out a Suárez header, then seven minutes from the end victory appeared to be Everton's when Lukaku scored a second, rising unopposed to meet a Mirallas corner.
Seven minutes is a long time in a Merseyside derby, however. Even after Sturridge equalised with a glancing header from Gerrard's free-kick with a minute of normal time left, there was still time for Suárez to bring another sharp save from Howard and the exciting Deulofeu to test Mignolet again at the other end. It was quite a game, and while a point each was only fair, both sides could reasonably claim they did enough to win. For entertainment value, it could not be faulted, and Dowd deserves credit for keeping 22 players on the pitch.
"End-to-end attacking football is what you want to see, with 11 players against 11, but Mirallas should have been sent off," Rodgers said. "The challenge was a really bad one, you could end a player's career jumping in like that."
Martínez was among those who thought the referee got it right. "It was a typical striker's tackle," he said. "I can see why Liverpool wanted a red card – had it been against one of my players I would probably feel the same – but it was not malicious and I think the referee took the emotions of a derby into account. He allowed the game to be played."