Belfast Telegraph

Jags hopes derby draw lifts Toffees

Phil Jagielka hopes that snatching a point at Anfield can provide Everton with the spark to ignite their season.

Liverpool looked to have sealed a derby victory through Steven Gerrard's 65th-minute free-kick only for Jagielka to pop up in injury time and rifle an equaliser into the top corner.

Everton's long wait for a victory at the home of their biggest rivals goes on but the point meant it was they who left Anfield with a spring in their step.

The games come thick and fast, with a trip to Russia to face Krasnodar in the Europa League on Thursday followed by another away game against Manchester United three days later.

Everton have still only won one Premier League game this season, and Jagielka said: " We've not got our game going as we'd have hoped this season.

"We'd have liked to have come away from here with more than one point but realistically, the way the game went and being 1-0 down with 90 minutes gone, a point would have been a fantastic result and it's something for us to build on.

"We've given the fans too many of these rubbish away days at Anfield so it's nice they've got something to talk about and something to hang on to. As long as we build on that going forward, then it's an important point.

"It's a tough week - Liverpool away, Russia away, Manchester United all in eight days is a really tough demand on the players but this will give us a little bit more confidence going into those games."

Of all Everton's potential sources of an equaliser, a Jagielka strike from 25 yards was among the most unlikely, but the captain stepped up when it really mattered.

It was the defender's first goal for his club in nearly 18 months.

"I've hit a few like that in training," said Jagielka. "There were a couple of half decent goals at Sheffield United but to score in a local derby in the last minute makes it extra special.

"I wasn't thinking too much when I hit it, which probably helped me out. I just tried to keep it down and thankfully I got enough pace to get it travelling and it didn't go over the bar.

"I've kept the shirt. I haven't seen the goal yet, it's all a bit of a blur. I'm getting a little bit of stick for my pathetic celebration but I'm not normally here to score goals so there's no special dance moves planned. Run around and stand still was about it."

As satisfying for Jagielka as the goal was Everton's defensive performance, which was much improved from recent games.

The Toffees withstood a lot of pressure, with Jagielka and young John Stones in the centre at the heart of it.

Everton's tally of 14 goals conceded in six games remains the worst in the Premier League, and Jagielka said: " The finger's always pointed when you concede as many goals as we have.

"It's not always the defenders' fault, it's not always anyone's fault, it's just sometimes a little bit of luck and things like that.

"We've conceded far too many. We've talked about that now and hopefully we can put in similar defensive performances and keep clean sheets."

Jagielka has come in for some individual criticism but received high praise from manager Roberto Martinez, who rated the goal as the best he had ever seen live.

The England man said of the doubters: "I'm not really bothered. I'm happy with the way things are going.

"The manager's sticking with me and its up to me to prove the critics wrong, and hopefully I'll do that. Probably not by scoring 30-yard goals every week but hopefully by defending as well as I have done."

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