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May 5, 2013

Merseyside derby ends in draw

LIVERPOOL, England -- Everton is likely to finish the top team on Merseyside for a second straight season after drawing 0-0 with Liverpool in a typically frenetic derby match on Sunday, keeping a five-point gap between the local rivals.

By failing to end its 14-year winless run at Anfield, however, the blue half of the city is set to miss out on European football next season, with Everton five points adrift of fifth-place Tottenham with just two games left.

There was little between the two teams in a hard-fought but low-quality 220th Merseyside derby, with Marouane Fellaini volleying wide with Everton's best chance and Steven Gerrard having an effort cleared off the line at the other end.

"I think it is a fair result," said Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, who played in his 30th and final derby before retiring at the end of the season. "There wasn't too many chances either end. It was a bit of a tense derby and credit to Everton for coming here and getting a draw."

The result virtually guarantees a seventh-place finish for Liverpool in Brendan Rodgers' first season in charge and highlighted the importance of striker Luis Suarez, who was serving the second match of his 10-game ban for biting an opponent.

Not since 1937 has Everton finished above its neighbor for two straight seasons but one win over either West Ham next weekend or Chelsea on the final day will end that barren streak.

"Everton have improved a lot," Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said. "They are a good team and hard to beat. This game sums up our season as we have played well but lacked a cutting edge."

The challenges were typically feisty -- Fellaini infuriated Liverpool's players because of his raised elbows in aerial collisions - but it remains one of the friendliest of the big rivalries off the pitch. Before kickoff, Liverpool fans in the Kop end held up red and blue cards to form a "Thanks" mosaic, in an expression of their gratitude for Everton's solidarity in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 Liverpool fans in 1989.

Fellaini volleyed wide from a free kick by Leighton Baines in the best opportunity of a first half that was frantic but lacked genuine quality.

Liverpool came into it more after the break and Daniel Sturridge, played clean through by Philippe Coutinho, was denied by goalkeeper Tim Howard in the 49th before shooting into the side-netting moments later.

There was some controversy when Everton defender Sylvain Distin had a headed goal ruled out for an apparent push by Victor Anichebe on goalkeeper Pepe Reina in the buildup, although there looked little in it.

"I don't want to be a whinging manager but we scored a legitimate goal today," Moyes said. "It should have counted."

Everton is without a win at Anfield since 1999.

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