Everton and Liverpool played out a grim spectacle as the 224th Merseyside derby ended in a goalless draw at Goodison Park.
The game had been billed as Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s farewell to this Premier League fixture – but apart from one second-half bicycle kick that was deflected over the top, the 34-year-old struggled as much as anyone else in his 33rd derby to lift this game out of mediocrity.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was almost rewarded for the bold decision to give teenager Jordon Ibe only his second league start when he hit the post with a thunderous first-half effort.
Everton, meanwhile, only produced a serious threat when Ross Barkley was given a five-minute cameo, setting up an opportunity for Seamus Coleman which brought a fine late save from Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet.
Rodgers and his Everton counterpart Roberto Martinez are renowned for their power of positive thinking, but it was only in a defensive sense they will get satisfaction here.
Everton subdued Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho to record a third successive clean sheet, with John Stones outstanding, while Liverpool extended their recent run to only one defeat in 14 games in all competitions.
Daniel Sturridge got another 35 minutes in the tank – but this was a far cry from the 3-3 classic Everton and Liverpool played out here at Goodison Park last season, with the Toffees now having gone 10 derbies without a win.
Everton lost the influence of Leighton Baines through injury while Rodgers produced a surprise selection by starting with youngster Ibe, who was recalled to Liverpool last month after an impressive loan spell at Derby County.
And in a first half high on endeavour but short on quality, Rodgers’ move almost paid the perfect dividend when Ibe ended a surging run on the right with a powerful rising drive that struck the woodwork with Joel Robles beaten.
Liverpool were forced into a reshuffle when reliable midfield anchor Lucas limped off to be replaced by Joe Allen but this was a game marked by a lack of end product from both sides.
Sterling had been well marshalled by Everton’s own England youngster Stones but he almost broke through just after the break, only for Robles to block at his near post.
Gerrard was looking for that moment of inspiration to mark his last league derby and he almost found it was an athletic bicycle kick which was deflected just over the bar off by Steven Naismith.
As the deadlock continued, both managers made changes, with Sturridge replacing Coutinho and Aaron Lennon making his Everton debut following a loan move from Spurs by coming on for Kevin Mirallas.
Martinez attempted to solve Everton’s lack of threat by introducing Barkley with five minutes left and he almost produced the desired result with a powerful run and pass that released Coleman, whose angled shot gave Mignolet his first meaningful action of the game.
There was to be no dramatic late twist – and in truth this game was so ordinary it did not deserve one.