Well there’s better ways to make an appearance in a Merseyside derby memorable; and Saturday’s derby was very memorable, but for Joe Allen it’s for the wrong reason. Perhaps the first thing he should have done at the final whistle, after Daniel Sturridge had headed in the equaliser, was pull a Hank Scorpio and tell Sturridge that when he gets home there’ll be another storey on his house.
The feelings of a large swathe of Reds turned from depression and anger to exhilaration and relief as Sturridge broke Evertonian hearts. For Allen, that goal lowered his public enemy rating from Jacques Mesrine down to Edward Snowden. His miss wasn’t as bad as the most infamous in Liverpool history (I don’t feel I have to name it), it wasn’t an open goal although Howard had already committed to diving out of the way, but it was a horrible miss.
It would have been a bad miss had Liverpool been up by four goals and playing Scunthorpe in the F.A. Cup at Anfield. Had it happened in those circumstances then most supporters would have laughed it off and not given it a second thought; but in sport context is king, and unfortunately for Allen the context magnifies the mistake.There’s no real point in going through the mechanics of the situation in detail, he put it wide and he shouldn’t have.
Suarez was alongside him and the ball could have been squared but Suarez was in a borderline offside decision and had Allen elected to pass, and Howard cut the ball out or the pass go behind Suarez, then Allen would still have been in the wrong. Any player who has a smidgen of confidence in their own ability goes for that shot, but you have to put it in the back of the net; there’s no other option.
So Allen has written himself into derby folklore but it won’t be for a reason he’ll want to remember. The miss affected him as shortly after he was booked for a tackle (I can’t say it was a foul as who knows what constitutes a foul these days when Phil Dowd is in charge) and then subbed three minutes later for Moses. Had Liverpool lost the game then the situation would have been exponentially worse. Ironically Dowd’s decision not to send off Mirallas made sure that Allen’s miss will always be the secondary talking point among Liverpool fans, but it is a talking point.
What happens next is an interesting quandary. Unless there’s an injury to Lucas, Henderson, Gerrard, or Sturridge hasn’t recovered from his international exertions, Allen will be back on the bench against Hull. He’ll have a role to play in the following week as we have three games in six days, but scoring that goal could have forced Rodgers into rethinking his starting eleven. He didn’t play badly in the game, in fact he was arguably the best Liverpool midfielder in the first half, but it wasn’t enough to dislodge the other three. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if he started as Rodgers is a terrific man manager and he might feel that’s the best way to get it out of his system.
Allen’s Liverpool career has been stop/start and Saturday’s events have done nothing to kick it on. The most important thing for him to do is to own the mistake, take it on board and move on. Good sportsmen use events like that as motivation to drive themselves on. He’ll need to do a lot to win round the sceptical supporters. Score on Sunday against Hull and it’ll be “why couldn’t you do that last week?” and they’ll have a point, which is all Liverpool managed against Everton because Allen couldn’t finish that chance.
However…Allen’s miss didn’t cause Liverpool to drop points. Two poorly conceded goals did that but then Everton’s defenders didn’t exactly give a defensive masterclass either. Both sides could point to reasons why they should have walked away with three points. That’s just football, it was that type of game, it happens and so do bad misses, but for a player who’s having a stuttering career at a club like Liverpool it can be the death knell. It’s up to Allen to move on and make sure it isn’t the moment that defines his career at Anfield.