Frank Lampard saluted the “spirit, work-ethic and quality” Everton showed in Saturday’s rollicking Merseyside derby draw at Goodison Park.
An all-action clash somehow finished goalless, with both sides striking the woodwork and Conor Coady having a 68th-minute strike disallowed by the VAR for a marginal offside.
The game was played in a deafening atmosphere, with the watching Evertonians roaring the Blues on as they took the fight to their city rivals.
Lampard revealed his pride in how Everton stood toe-to-toe with Liverpool – and is confident his team will only improve.
“It was a very intense game,” he said. “There was good quality and lots of chances for both teams.
“It’s my first experience of a derby at Goodison, and the atmosphere from the beginning to the end [was incredible].
“More than anything, the spirit and work ethic from our players was fantastic. Liverpool are a great team over the last six or seven years and we’re at the beginning of the process but what you see today is a team that’s progressing, we’re working hard.
“We showed spirit, hard work but also quality to play and we’re playing better, and we will get better."
Asked how Everton approached the game tactically, Lampard explained: “We wanted to be more aggressive in our approach in terms of how we worked off the ball.
“We didn’t want to succumb and accept too much pressure and I thought we did that pretty well for most of the game.
“The lads followed through with the game plan, the desire to stay in the game, and the desire to create our own chances.
“I’m happy with the point, of course, because of the chances that they had, too. And I’m very happy with the team and the way we’re going.”
The complexion of the game could have been altered in the final 15 minutes had Virgil van Dijk been sent off for a challenge on Amadou Onana. The foul was deemed only worthy of a yellow card, however.
Lampard said: "If you look at the moment he connects with Amadou’s shin and Amadou’s foot is on the ground… I’m surprised it hasn’t gone to VAR and the referee hasn’t been asked to make what I think was the correct decision.
"For me, that was a red card and that changes the face of the last part of the game. The ref and the VAR get that one wrong, in my opinion."
Jordan Pickford made several outstanding saves in an end-to-end contest at Goodison.
He acrobatically kept out a powerful Darwin Nunez effort shortly before half-time, before brilliantly saving from Roberto Firmino on three occasions and somehow tipping Mo Salah’s stoppage-time drive onto the post.
Liverpool were also indebted to their keeper, with Allison making a point-blank stop to deny debutant Neal Maupay a dream derby goal and an athletic save from Dwight McNeil's late strike.
Lampard said: “Jordan gets fingertips on a few bits that a lot of keepers don’t get, he pushes the one from Nunez on the bar, the one from Mo Salah at the end.
“Alisson was the same, they’re two top goalkeepers.
“We’ve relied on Jordan a lot since I’ve been here. He’s an amazing goalkeeper.
“I’m so fortunate to have a player of his level to pull off saves like that."
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PICKFORD ON EVERTON'S UNITY AND CHARACTER
On the next steps Everton can make, Lampard added: “I think we can want more because the performances have deserved a bit more [in terms of points].
“At Leeds in the second half we had a really tight goal go against us [Demarai Gray’s strike which was ruled out for offside], and we have a couple of really good opportunities that don’t go our way against Liverpool.
“The positive side is the way the team is playing and it’s developing.
“Some of the new players are just in and they’re going to get a lot better.
“We’re working very, very hard,.I think today was a sign of that.
“You can’t always affect the results, sometimes they are due to circumstances in games, but you can affect your performance in how hard you work, and the team were first-class today.”