Gerrard, Jagielka hit back at critics

Stunning strikes lit up the 233rd Merseyside derby on Saturday.

Everton's Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic (L) is beaten by Liverpool’s English midfielder Steven Gerrard during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool on September 27, 2014. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - With impeccable timing, Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Everton's Phil Jagielka rammed the words of their critics back down their throats with stunning strikes to light up the 233rd Merseyside derby on Saturday.

Ninety minutes of blood and thunder combat at Anfield ended in a 1-1 draw that suited neither team but offered respite to the scorers, who had been targeted by pundits and frustrated fans after their teams endured mixed starts to the season.

Questions about Gerrard's ageing legs were silenced, temporarily at least, when he curled home a superb free kick, which would have won the game had centre back Jagielka, under fire for his team's defensive woes, not rifled home from 25 metres in stoppage time.

For the Liverpool captain, who pulled the strings in the heart of midfield after being marked out of the game in recent defeats by West Ham United and Aston Villa, this was a reminder that he is not done yet.

"I think I'll agree with the constructive criticism in that I've been stifled in a couple of games with players following me about, but then people go one step further and say you can't run anymore and you're done," he told BT sport.

"That's the frustrating thing and it was nice to remind people that although I am 34, I can still run and play and still compete with the best players around."

Although there were familiar failings in Liverpool's attacking play, principally their inability to find the net as easily as they did last season, there were green shoots of improvement after recent insipid displays when they were easily shut out.

Having taken the lead, they should have extended their advantage when Mario Balotelli failed to convert from close range following a superb cross from Raheem Sterling.

It has been a difficult start to life at Anfield for Balotelli, who was praised by his manager Brendan Rodgers for his hard work, while at the same time reminded that when he has the ball five metres from goal he should be finding the target.

"He should have scored," bemoaned a clearly frustrated Rodgers, whose side are 12th with seven points from six games.

"Obviously he will be disappointed he has not scored, but I thought his work rate and some of his touches were quality...

"Sometimes you don't get what you deserve in football and if ever there was a day that warranted that it was today.

"If it was not for an incredible strike at the end we would have had the three points and it would have been well-deserved."

That incredible strike was all the more surprising because it came from the boot of Jagielka, who had not found the net for Everton in 17 months and had been criticised after his team conceded 13 goals in their opening five league games.

"It was a special strike and he (Jagielka) deserves it," Everton manager Roberto Martinez said.

"He has been getting a lot of stupid criticism. We saw a man who faces adversity full on."