LIVERPOOL // It is quite a trick to reduce to 219th Merseyside derby to a one-man show. Nevertheless, it was one Luis Suarez mastered, typically and totally. Irresistible and irritating, a threat at goal and to opponents alike, the Uruguayan was ubiquitous, although not ultimately victorious.
He thought he was. Suarez wheeled away in last-minute celebration, convinced he had volleyed Liverpool to glory.
It would have been the third goal he had been involved in, the second credited to him. Except that, bemusedly, the referee Andre Marriner disallowed it. Suarez was not offside when Sebastian Coates flicked on Steven Gerrard's free kick.
"It is a quite a straightforward decision," said his manager, Brendan Rodgers. "It should have been a goal and an outstanding hat-trick for Luis." While disputing the initial award of the free kick, the Everton manager David Moyes concurred: "It was a goal."
And yet, outside Liverpool's vast fan base, sympathy for Suarez may be in short supply. The issue is not just his controversial past, but his controversial present. The striker should not have been able to deliver a winner. "He was a really lucky man to stay on the pitch," said Moyes.
One late lunge at Kevin Mirallas injured Everton's outstanding player. Another, on Sylvain Distin, brought a booking that could easily have been his second or, in Moyes's view, a straight red card. "Definitely," said the Scot. "It's over the top and down the back of his legs."
The Everton manager had branded the Liverpool top scorer a diver in the derby build-up - rather embarrassingly for the Everton manager, his captain Phil Neville was deservedly cautioned for simulation - and when Liverpool struck, Suarez sprinted 50 yards to belly-flop in front of Moyes.
"It's great," Moyes said. "I quite like that."
Despite the view of Rodgers, however, it was not Suarez's goal, Leighton Baines deflecting the striker's cross-shot past his own goalkeeper. Nevertheless, the celebration may linger longer in the mind than the goal itself
Liverpool's second goal, however, was indisputably scored by Suarez. Gerrard curled in a free kick and, with the Everton defence dozing, Suarez glanced his header past Tim Howard.
A two-goal advantage had no sooner been secured than Everton responded. "It was a great recovery," Moyes said.
They were aided by Liverpool's second-choice goalkeeper. Brad Jones, standing in for Pepe Reina, punched poorly and Leon Osman responded clinically, driving in a shot from the edge of the box. Suitably buoyed, Everton were back on level terms when Marouane Fellaini turned and crossed and Steven Naismith timed his break into the box perfectly to finish.
Uninvolved in either goal but nevertheless Everton's most potent player, Mirallas had been superb, making a series of driving raids deep into Liverpool territory. That was until he was caught late by Suarez, and, after limping around until the interval, replaced. "He was outstanding, nearly unstoppable in the 20 minutes before half-time," Moyes said.
Already without the suspended Steven Pienaar, Everton were deprived of their spark. Liverpool, on the ropes by the break, regrouped with a change of shape and added height, in the shape of substitute Coates, to cope with the giant Fellaini.
As Liverpool became increasingly assured, their threat increased with Suarez a jet-heeled weapon on the counterattack. They were the likelier winners and, though the draw was the right result over the 90 minutes, their third goal should have been permitted.
"I am frustrated very proud of my young team in a cauldron," said Rodgers. Truth be told, though, his youngsters were the subplot. Suarez was the protagonist, the key to almost every twist in the tale and ultimately the man who felt the game had an unhappy ending.
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