Liverpool v Everton
Honours were even on an afternoon of high drama at Anfield as the 215th Merseyside derby served up a classic.
The traits that make this contest so special were there in abundance as the two rivals slugged out a pulsating 2-2 draw.
There may well have been a continental flavour to the personnel on the pitch but this was every inch an English derby.
Where poise and composure were lacking – heart, commitment and raw desire thrived.
The first half belonged to Liverpool and Raul Meireles’ opener was fair reward for their dominance in the opening 45 minutes.
But Everton’s character, spirit and no lack of quality shone through as they scrapped their way into the lead within six minutes of the restart through goals from Sylvain Distin and Jermaine Beckford.
Dirk Kuyt’s penalty levelled matters and, try as they might, neither side could find a winner as the two sets of players – spent but committed to the end – battled until the final whistle.
Everton were without South African playmaker Steven Pienaar who – out of contract in the summer – is on the verge of a move away from Goodison Park.
His place in midfield went to Leon Osman, while Victor Anichebe also came into the side to replace the injured Louis Saha.
With the game being played at a dizzying pace both sides struggled for rhythm.
Seamus Coleman and Fernando Torres both fired in hopeful efforts but errors and misplaced passes were the dominant theme in the opening stages.
Yet as the half wore on, the hosts began to settle and took charge.
Torres was proving a real pest and on 17 minutes he got the better of Distin, cut inside and sent a curling shot crashing back off the inside of Tim Howard’s right hand post.
Kuyt, the scourge of the Blues in the past, sent a wild follow-up in the general direction of Row Z.
The Blues brightest moments in the opening half came from set-pieces with the hosts unable to cope with Marouane Fellaini in the air.
And, with 26 minutes gone, Beckford was inches away from converting a knock down from the giant Belgian.
That was about as good as it got for the Blues and soon they found themselves behind.
Glen Johnson bombed up on the right, collected a cute flick from Torres and swung a cross to the back stick.
Tim Howard sprung into life to twice thwart Kuyt but the American was helpless as the ball squirmed loose to Meireles on the edge of the box and the Portuguese hammered the ball home.
Almost straight from the kick-off it could have been worse but Howard was alive to deny Torres.
The half-time whistle came with the Blues decidedly second best but within six manic minutes of the restart they exploded into life and turned the game on its head.
First Distin rose powerfully at the back post to head home Mikel Arteta’s corner before Osman snaked down the left and fed Beckford, who used his body expertly to buy a yard before smashing the ball unerringly beyond Pepe Reina.
Where the first-half was shaded Red, the second was brilliant Blue as the visitors asserted themselves with the bullish forward play of Anichebe rattling the Liverpool defenders.
You couldn’t help but feel there was more drama on the way and, as the game began to lurch from end to end, it was the hosts who struck next.
Kuyt completely missed his kick as a Meireles free-kick reached the far post, yet as Howard attempted to mop up the danger he sent Maxi Rodriguez sprawling. Kuyt easily dispatched the resulting spot kick.
On came James Vaughan, Jack Rodwell and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov as the visitors searched for a winner but there were no further chances as both sides had to settle for a point.