5 best & worst Merseyside derbies

My Five Best Merseyside Derbies by Ste Speed


In recent years the Merseyside derby has been tainted by bitterness between the two sets of supporters. However it has always been my favourite fixture of the football season. It is consistently the game I look forward to the most every year. Putting aside the race for the title with the likes of Man Utd and Chelsea, the rivalry with Everton will always be the most important one. That’s true for the majority of the people on Merseyside where ‘Reds’ and ‘Blues’ work alongside each other every day and family members are often split with support for both teams. My dad has four brothers and two of them are Evertonian’s and the other three are Kopite’s, try telling them that the derby doesn’t mean as much as the more glamourous fixtures.

To get us in the mood for the first derby game of this season I want to share my own personal top five matches between Liverpool and Everton. As always with these types of lists, everybody will have their own favourites. Some of you will agree with my choices and some of you will disagree and prefer other derbies. There have been loads of classic derby games over the years, each with their own share of special moments. The five games that I have chosen for my top five have all given me special and personal memories. As an interesting aside, you may notice that none of my choices took place at Anfield, this is merely a coincidence and not deliberate.

5. Everton 2 Liverpool 3 – August 1985

This was an absolutely superb game, near the start of the 1985/86 season. It’s a game that doesn’t seem to feature very often on Liverpool compilation videos or DVDs, but it really should. I will never forget watching the televised highlights on the Saturday night afterwards and keeping them on tape for years afterwards. In fact I think my dad still has a copy of it.

To coin a cliché this really was a game of two halves. Liverpool raced into a 3 – 0 first half lead before Everton staged a dramatic comeback in the second half. The game started out in incredible fashion with player-manager Kenny Dalglish opening the score after just 20 seconds. It was a spectacular strike from outside the area and the ball seemed to fly in slow motion. The second goal was another belter scored by Steve McMahon. This was McMahon’s first goal for the Reds after signing just one week previously. Ian Rush completed the rout with a typical finish going one on one with Neville Southall. The second half was a totally different story as Graeme Sharp and Gary Lineker struck for Everton and made the scoreline far closer than the fans had imagined at half time.

4. Everton 2 Liverpool 3 – 1989 F.A. Cup Final

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The 1989 F.A. Cup Final was a very special game after the Hillsborough disaster. The city deserved another all Merseyside final as both teams players & fans came together united in grief and support for each other. The fans and families of those who died deserved a tremendous game and that’s exactly what they got as both teams fought to the bitter end, with the game going into extra time.

The game was preceded by moving versions of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Abide With Me’ sung by Gerry Marsden on the pitch, accompanied by eighty thousand fans of both Red and Blue. Once the game got going it was John Aldridge who opened the scoring from a terrific Steve McMahon through ball. After that early goal, the game was tense and dramatic as Everton pressed for the equaliser. As the game ticked into the ninetieth minute Everton made a last gasp effort to get the ball into the Liverpool area. Time seemed to stand still as Stuart McCall’s toe poke trickled into the net through the legs of Tony Cottee.

So the game went into extra time. Substitute Ian Rush had come on late in the second half to replace John Aldridge. The substitution from Kenny Dalglish proved to be inspired in the first half of extra time as Rush turned with pace on Everton captain Kevin Ratcliffe and fired Liverpool into the lead. However the lead was only to last a few minutes as Everton won a free kick. It was delivered high into the Liverpool area and headed out by Alan Hansen. Unfortunately it fell straight to Stuart McCall who volleyed it first time into the corner of the net giving Bruce Grobbelaar no chance. Then minutes later Rush struck again, this time with a lovely header from a John Barnes cross. It was unbelievable stuff, three goals in less than ten minutes.

This was to be the winning goal and stand in captain Ronnie Whelan got the glory of lifting the famous trophy. The memorable image I remember from this game was the sight of Everton goalkeeper, Neville Southall, sitting alone in the goal for quite some time after the game ended.

3. Everton 2 Liverpool 3 – April 2001

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This is the match most remembered for Gary McAllister’s long range free kick in the dying seconds. I remember watching this game with my dad at a neighbour’s home where we had gone for drinks because it was on a long weekend. Incidentally these particular neighbour’s were all rabid Evertonian’s so the atmosphere was great and the banter flowing in a hilarious style that only Scousers do so well.

Liverpool took the lead with Emile Heskey going one on one with Everton keeper Paul Gerrard. Everton equalised soon after through Bluenose hero Duncan Ferguson. Liverpool went back into the lead in the second half with a goal from Marcus Babel. Soon after this Robbie Fowler missed a penalty that surely would have put the game out of Everton’s reach. Everton capitalised on this penalty miss by going up to the other end and winning one of their own. David Unsworth didn’t miss and me and my dad had our heads in our hands wondering how we’d thrown the game away.

Iit looked to be heading for a 2 – 2 draw when we got a free kick in the dying seconds. Surely this was to be our last chance to snatch the victory. Everyone in the room was expecting McAllister to float the ball in to the box because it was so far away from the goal. However I saw the look in his eye as he put the ball down and said; “he’s going to hit this”. My prediction was correct as it sailed straight into the bottom corner of the Everton goal. The Liverpool fans, the bench and the players went absolutely berserk and my dad and I matched them well as we trampled over the Bluenose’s furniture wagging our fingers in their faces! This was an extremely crucial win as we needed every point we could get on our chase for that crucial third Champions League place. This victory, and that goal, gave us that extra bit of confidence we needed for the exciting climax to the treble season.

2. Everton 4 Liverpool 4 – February, 1991

Even if this game had finished 0 – 0 it would still have been memorable simply for the fact that it was Kenny Dalglish’s last as Liverpool manager. This is also the first time I can recall a game (that wasn’t a cup final) being so amazing that it was released on video soon afterwards.

It was the fifth round of the F.A. Cup and it was an incredible game. Liverpool took the lead four times through Ian Rush, John Barnes and Peter Beardsley and Everton kept coming back. Steve Nicol messed up for one of Evertons goals from Graeme Sharp. Sharp scored again to take the game into extra time. Liverpool went 3 – 2 up and then Everton substitute Tony Cottee equalised. Barnes scored one of the best ever Liverpool goals to make it 4 – 3 before Cottee equalised again in dramatic fashion.

Unfortunately this amazing game was overshadowed by the resignation of Kenny Dalglish almost immediately afterwards. I remember it was during the half term holidays from school so I was watching the lunchtime news on television when I heard the news. At first I thought I refused to believe the news, thinking it was either a lie or a rumour, but when I saw my dad’s face when he got home from work that night I knew it was true. Liverpool lost the replay 1 – 0 with a goal from Dave Watson.

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1. Everton 1 Liverpool 3 – 1986 F.A. Cup Final

This is my favourite football match of all time. It was a massive game in which Liverpool where going for their first ever ‘double’ and Everton were looking for revenge for the league. Anybody who lived in Liverpool at the time will know just how truly massive this game really was. I remember the day before at school, the day was devoted to the game and we all wore Liverpool or Everton colours to school, we had a special assembly were we sung ‘Abide With Me’ & then we had a Liverpool V Everton game of our own on the school field in the afternoon. The day of the game there were many areas that had ‘street parties’ including where my family lived in Bootle. Decorating tables were laid out along the street & filled with buffet food and there was bunting and flags hanging from the lamp-posts & people had posters and flags in their windows. An absolutely brilliant day and something I think could only ever of happened in Liverpool.

I still think that was the best FA Cup Final ever & I don’t even think the 2006 final can better it, apart from the fact it was Liverpool V Everton when both teams were the best in England it really was a tremendously exciting game played at a great tempo. It had plenty of goals and memorable moments such as the Bruce Grobbelaar save from Sharp’s header & the little row he had with Jim Beglin.

Gary Lineker put Everton into a first half lead and by half tie the Blues had the game well under control. Liverpool scored three times through Ian Rush with two and Craig Johnston. The second half was a totally different story. Jan Molby put in a career best performance as he dominated midfield. He ran the second half setting up the first and second goals and then having an important hand in the third goal too with a sublime blind pass to Ronnie Whelan who chipped it over the defence to Ian Rush. He almost scored himself when he went one on one with the Everton keeper Bobby Mimms, but unfortunately he hit his shot straight at Mimms.

Liverpool took home the trophy that day but the entire city of Merseyside were winners that day. It still excites me when I watch that game and reminisce about the days before bitterness took over and spoilt the atmosphere of the derby.

My Five Worst Merseyside Derbies by Keith Perkins

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There’s always something special about Liverpool versus Everton, no matter what the competition or where we stand in the table relative to each other. As long as we are both in the Premier League, then we’re guaranteed two matches a season against our neighbours, and in some seasons we are lucky enough to face them in one or the other of the domestic cups as well. In recent years, we’ve definitely had the better of them, although they’ll certainly point out the two or three times that they’ve managed to get the better of us. They’ll also remember in great detail the most recent time that they finished above us in the league, which was at the end of the 2004-05 season, with us finishing fifth, leading to that annoying habit of referring to our manager as “Rafa Beneath-us.” But, we could let them have their fun, knowing that we had a certain piece of silverware added to our already bulging trophy room, while they’ve had nothing to add to theirs since their FA Cup win in 1995 (1-0 over Manchester United, one of the few occasions where I’ve been openly cheering for the Blues).

Perhaps the biggest ever difference in fortunes for the Blue and the Red halves of Merseyside occurred in 1954. At the end of that season, Liverpool were relegated to the Second Division after finishing dead last in 22nd place. Meanwhile, to make matters worse for the Reds, there were celebrations across Stanley Park as Everton passed us in the opposite direction after gaining promotion to the First Division following their second place finish in Division Two. It would be a few years before the rivalry resumed, with Liverpool beginning their years of domination in the early ‘60’s and continuing for several decades.

The upcoming match at Goodison has to be seen as crucial in so many ways. We need the points desperately, but then again so do they. We have to turn around the early poor form which has dropped us into the bottom places of the table, but then again so do they. We’re both on six points from seven games, which is definitely not good enough or acceptable for either side. The biggest difference between us for this match could be a simple matter of confidence. They managed to win finally, scoring two in their last match which was away at St. Andrews – a place where we could only manage a frustrating scoreless draw a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, we are coming off a humiliating home loss to newly promoted Blackpool, which has to be the lowest point of the season so far for us. Those two contrasting results must be giving them a boost ahead of the match, and of course they’ll be thinking of and carefully reviewing all of their other past victories over us with the belief that they can take us again this time around.

We’ve travelled across the park 104 times with the Blues having a slightly better record at Goodison with 39 wins to our 37. They can certainly take some comfort in that, but as we all know only too well, history and statistics don’t mean a damn thing on the day, and so as always everything is up for grabs. It could well be the turning point of the season for one of us, either for better or for worse, and neither side will be thinking about past performances.

In all the years that both clubs have been competing against each other, we’ve had some fantastic tussles with the Blues, with two of the most memorable being the FA Cup finals of 1986 and 1989. Ian Rush must have been their worst nightmare with him scoring four goals in those two finals, and who can forget his four goals in the 5-0 humiliation at Goodison in 1982? Liverpool went on to win the League that year, but strangely could only manage a 0-0 result at Anfield in March. We’ve also had a number of memorable come-from-behind wins, including the 1970 thriller with Shankly’s new-look Liverpool coming back from 2-0 down to win 3-2. Two of the goals in that match came from new players Heighway and Toshack, as Liverpool began the decade as they meant to continue. Then of course there was the famous Gary McAllister 44 yard free-kick in the dying moments to take all three points in 2001, making it a truly memorable season in so many ways.

Those were just two of the most exciting Merseyside derbies, to go along with the rest of the wins, but of course we should also remember that we haven’t always had it so easy. Out of all of the losses to our local rivals, many of them have been ones that we’d rather forget. It’s never easy to admit defeat, but it’s sometimes useful to remember that we have to have the right mentality or we can be easily caught out. So, as a reminder that we can’t be too careful, here’s my list of Our Worst Five Merseyside Derbies.

5. Everton 3-0 Liverpool, First Division, October 13th 1894

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Everton Football Club, who were founded in 1878 and were one of the twelve clubs to form The Football League in 1888, moved away from Anfield in 1892, leading to the formation of Liverpool Football Club who entered the Lancashire League the same year. After one season, Liverpool were then accepted to the Football League (second division) and were promoted to the first division in the summer of 1894. That allowed for the first ever derby between the two Merseyside clubs, which was not a great day for the newcomers. Everton came out as 3-0 winners at Goodison, which is perhaps not so surprising given the gap in experience between the two clubs at that time.

4. Everton 1-0 Liverpool, FA Cup, March 11th 1967

The mid-sixties were an amazing time for all of Merseyside. Both clubs had their share of success, and of course the terms “Merseybeat” and “Scouse Humour” were becoming well known all over the world. Liverpool had won the FA Cup in 1965, in between League Championships in 1964 and 1966. Everton won the FA Cup in 1966, and had been League Champions before Liverpool in 1963. The 1966-67 season began with the Charity Shield being contested between Everton as FA Cup winners and Liverpool as League Champions, at Goodison. That particular match was also memorable for Roger Hunt and Ray Wilson coming out with the 1966 World Cup trophy between them, as two of the players who had helped England win the World Cup earlier that summer.

By the spring of 1967, Liverpool and Everton had already played each other twice in the League, and once in the Charity Shield, with one win each and one draw. Then, the FA Cup Fifth Round tie pitted the two Merseyside giants against each other in what was described as the equivalent of a world championship. As Bill Shankly remarked at the time, it’s doubtful if this would ever happen again, with the Champions versus the Cup holders in a city as fanatical as Liverpool. The match, to be played at Goodison, was sold out in no time and so closed circuit television screens were erected at Anfield. Separate programs were printed and sold at each ground, and a total of 105,000 saw the match decided by a single goal, scored by Alan Ball (later to be a Vancouver Whitecap), to put Liverpool out of the cup. The feeling of loss was all the greater after such a build-up, but at least we’ve had plenty of revenge since then.

3. Everton 1-0 Liverpool, Premier League, December 11th, 2004

Liverpool reached a peak under Gerard Houllier in the summer of 2001, winning five trophies in a period of six months. It was not such a great time after that, with a gradual decline in fortunes beginning to worry us all. In the summer of 2004, the club and Monsieur Houllier parted company, and in came new manager Rafa Benitez. There was no doubt that the new manager knew how to win, but one of his first big tests came with the Premier League match against Everton at Goodison. This was to be the 200th Merseyside derby, and Rafa’s first, and should have been his first victory over his new rivals. As always, it was a tight match with plenty of physical tackles, and with Liverpool looking more likely to come out as winners. That was until two thirds of the way through when Everton scored. At least that brought the match to life, with Liverpool pushing hard for an equaliser, but it was not to be their day. The season ended with glory for Liverpool, winning their fifth European Cup, but finishing behind Everton in fifth place in the League. Everton were granted a third qualifying round place in the Champions League, while Liverpool had to apply for permission to defend their European title. If that match had finished with a Liverpool victory instead, the final league positions would have been reversed, there would have been no need for that special permission from UEFA, and no taunts of “Rafa Beneathus” from the Blues. At least we had the pleasure the following season of seeing the blues knocked out of both European competitions in short order, and then at times struggling to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

2. Everton 3-0 Liverpool, Premier League, September 9th, 2006

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Liverpool were defending FA Cup Champions, and Charity Shield winners over League Champions Chelsea, following an impressive 2005-06 season. We were unlucky not to take second place in the league, finishing a single point behind Manchester United, and 32 points ahead of Everton who had finished a dismal season in 11th place. Added to that, Liverpool had lost only once to Everton in the last eight seasons (see above), so it should be pretty much a foregone conclusion. Only the most faithful of the Evertonians would have given the Blues any chance in this one, but it was one of those days when everything seems to go wrong and against the odds. Liverpool were a goal down in less than half an hour, but so what? We had fought back against bigger deficits than that and so were not too worried. Then, when Everton scored a second, it didn’t look too much like it was going to be a day to remember for the Reds, and by the end of the match it became a farce. A long hopeful volley in the last minute of the match was seriously misjudged by Reina, who almost fell backwards with it into his own goal. Instead of that embarrassment, he tried to palm the ball away from him, only for it to go straight to the head of Andy Johnson who nodded in his second of the day. The final score of 3-0 was the third ever biggest win for Everton, and their biggest since their 4-0 victory way back in 1964! In that season of forty odd years ago, we had the pleasure of winning the League in spite of the big loss to the blues, taking the title directly from them. In this particular case it was part of a poor run of form for Liverpool as we struggled for consistency. Still, by the end of the season we finished in third place again, 10 points clear of the blues, and finished off with a trip to Athens for the European Cup Final, all of which can be enjoyed on a disc of the season in review. Meanwhile, the blues enjoyed watching that one match over and over on a specially released DVD to commemorate the rarity of the occasion, and to celebrate the one and only significant success of their season. Sad, isn’t it?

1. Everton 4-4 Liverpool, FA Cup, February 20th, 1991

The rivalry between the two Merseyside clubs was becoming intense as the 1980?s came to a close, and so when Liverpool and Everton were drawn to play each other in the fifth round of the FA Cup in early 1991 it was billed as another “Clash of the Titans.” Liverpool were defending League Champions, and had beaten the blues in the FA Cup final of 1989. Liverpool had already beaten Everton 3-1 in the League on the 9th of February, with the Cup match to come just eight days later on the 17th. It’s never possible to predict the outcome of a cup fixture based on a league match, no matter how close together they are played, and it was not really so much of a surprise that Everton managed to hold on for a 0-0 result forcing a replay at Goodison. That replay, coming only three days later on the 20th, also resulted in a draw, but it was far from a boring 0-0 result. Liverpool took the lead no less than four times, only to see Everton claw their way back and equalise each time. The draw forced a second replay, also to be played at Goodison. That 4-4 draw is remembered not only as possibly the most exciting FA Cup match in the history of the competition so far (at least to the neutrals watching), but also as the last Liverpool match to be played under the management of Kenny Dalglish. The pressure of the job was becoming too much for him, and that replay turned out to be the final straw. His surprise resignation was announced two days later, and Liverpool were left in the hands of caretaker-manager Ronnie Moran. In spite of Ronnie’s best efforts, all of Liverpool’s promise in the early going came to an end, first with a loss to Luton in the League and then a loss to Everton in that second replay.

So there’s my five choices for the five worst ever Merseyside derbies. Obviously a list such as this is going to be compiled very much from my personal opinion, and no doubt everyone will have their own personal awful memories. These are not the only candidates for worst; they are just the ones that I’ve chosen for their significance, at least as far as I see it. There’s no special order to the bottom four of the list, they are simply taken chronologically from earliest to more recent. The one exception is the number one choice, which is not only out of sequence but not even a loss. That one result would turn out to be a major turning point in the history of Liverpool F.C., and one that many would say we’ve still never fully recovered from. But that’s a discussion that’s better left for another time.

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