Liverpool and Everton played out a frenetic 0-0 draw in the Merseyside derby at Anfield on Sunday. The home side created the better chances in open play with Daniel Sturridge spurning several good openings either side of the break. But the closest the game came to a goal was perhaps the header Sylvain Distin directed goalwards early in the second half only to be see his effort disallowed.
Sturridge continued to deputise for the suspended Luis Suarez in attack with Philippe Coutinho charged with providing the ammunition for the England international striker. Jamie Carragher was selected at centre-back for his final Merseyside derby.
David Moyes preferred Victor Anichebe to the out-of-sorts Nikica Jelavic in attack, while the attack-minded Seamus Coleman was selected ahead of derby-day veteran Tony Hibbert at right-back. Phil Jagielka captained the side with club captain Phil Neville out the squad.
Liverpool have had a settled defence all season and crammed their midfield with willing runners such as Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson as well as the reliable holder in Lucas Leiva. Steven Gerrard and Coutinho were expected to provide the quality in support of Sturridge.
Marouane Fellaini frequently drifted into attacking positions alongside Anichebe to form a physical pairing in the Everton attack. With Leighton Baines getting forward down the left and Kevin Mirallas asking plenty of questions down the right, the plan was to pepper the box and play from there.
Gerrard was the star man for Liverpool with a dominant display in the middle of the park. The Reds skipper showcased his full repertoire of probing long passes to create ample opportunities for Sturridge to shine, while Coutinho offered an alternative threat with his subtle threaded passes causing problems for the Everton defence.
Tim Howard was a match for Sturridge when the Liverpool striker ran through on goal and when the US international goalkeeper was beaten - by Gerrard after the break - he had his defenders there to help out. Distin cleared off the line, while Jagielka produced a couple of vital blocks and Everton were undoubtedly indebted to their experienced centre-back pairing.
Although Brendan Rodgers did turn to his bench twice in an effort to shake things up, he could not find the breakthrough. Fabio Borini's only contribution as a substitute was to get himself into the book, while Martin Skrtel was hardly likely to provide the impetus needed.
Moyes only made one of the permitted three substitutions and it was a positive one. He brought on striker Jelavic for wide-man Mirallas but the Croatian lacked the drive of the man he replaced and showed little sign of grabbing that much-needed goal.
Michael Oliver appeared determined to let the game flow in the early stages and allowed several strong challenges to go unpunished. Rodgers praised the referee for this element of his performance but Oliver will surely be remembered for the decision to disallow Distin's second-half header. There seemed little wrong with the 'goal' but, in the referee's defence, the whistle went well before the ball crossed the line.
This was always likely to be a transition season for Liverpool and there is a sense that Rodgers has been eyeing the summer for some time now. This game highlighted the need for further attacking options and with Carragher retiring he will be anxious to add the defensive options at Anfield too. The supporters will expect real progress next season.
Everton still retain ambitions of European qualification but they can be proud of what will surely be a top-six finish now - they are five points clear of Liverpool with two games remaining. The squad has a good mix of senior professionals and emerging youngsters but the key signing this summer is likely to be the manager. If Moyes can be persuaded to pen a new deal then the future looks bright. Without him there could be uncertain times ahead for this Everton side.