EVERTON 0-2 LIVERPOOL
Premier League, Saturday October 1st, 2011
Andy Carroll went some way towards answering his mounting critics with a 71st minute goal which set Liverpool on their way to victory in the 216th edition of the Merseyside Derby.
Luis Suarez scored the Reds second and decisive goal in a hard-fought 2-0 win. But it was referee Martin Atkinson who took centre stage. As his controversial decision to produce a red card for Jack Rodwell’s challenge on Suarez midway through the first half ultimately swung the game in Liverpool’s favour.
The Goodison faithful understandably, if somewhat predictably, lamented their hard-luck and chastised the performance of the referee. Atkinson having also awarded Liverpool a deserved penalty-kick in the closing moments of the first half – one which Dirk Kuyt ultimately failed to convert.
However, from a Liverpool perspective it was simply a case of job done. Once Everton had been reduced to 10-men there was an air of inevitability about the eventual outcome. Yet, the Reds far from had it all their own way. And, as is seemingly the case with every derby encounter, this result was grafted through hard work rather than any degree of flair.
Dismissals are another facet which seem almost inescapable in any match between the red and blue halves of Merseyside. There was certainly a degree of familiarity about the Rodwell red card and its probable impact on the eventual outcome of this game.
This was the 12th red card issued in the last 16 Merseyside derbies. That combined with Atkinson’s noted penchant for showing cards, meant that it was hardly surprising that the match did not last the distance with a full compliment of players.
But that should not discredit Liverpool’s efforts in achieving a result which could yet prove pivotal in their own season. With the visit of Manchester United to come, it was important for Kenny Dalglish’s team to take something from a game which is perennially one of the most keenly contested of the season. Especially after having already suffered a couple of set-backs in the early stages of their season.
The dismal may have been the game-changing incident. But this was hardly a case of Liverpool cruising to victory having been granted a numerical advantage. Indeed the Reds were professional and clinical in front of goal rather than dominant for the most part.
Liverpool began the game brightly. Dalglish having opted for a relatively attacking line-up, with Kuyt, Carroll and Suarez all present in the starting XI.
Suarez should have done better when he could only force Tim Howard into a comfortable save with a header from Kuyt’s cross. After Phil Jagielka had sliced a clearance under pressure from the Dutchman in the opening minutes.
Yet, the hosts gradual began to take the game to the Reds, in what grew into an inevitably full-blooded encounter. Pepe Reina had to make a creditable save from a Tim Cahill header – tipping the ball over the bar at full stretch. Whilst Sylvian Distin probably should have tested the Spaniard moments later. The centre-back having escaped the attentions of Jose Enrique before firing over.
As has been a regular theme away from home this season; Liverpool were struggling to genuinely gain a foothold in the game in midfield. And that continued even after Rodwell’s dismissal. Indeed, it was not until the introduction of Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy on 66 minutes that the Reds were genuinely able to gain the upper hand in that area of the field.
Of the sending off – the result of a midfield challenge by Rodwell on Suarez – the young midfielder can consider himself unfortunate to have received red, for a challenge which was strong but fair even if he did catch Suarez with the follow though. Particularly, considering that there were worst challenges in the game which went unpunished.
But it was Liverpool’s responsibility to take advantage of the situation. And it was not until the closing stages of the opening half that they came close to doing so.
First Liverpool were awarded a penalty for what was clearly a rash challenge by Jagielka on Suarez in the corner of the Glawdys Street end penalty area. Kuyt was handed the responsibility but contrived to miss the first spot-kick of his Liverpool career. Howard diving to his left to push away a fairly tame effort.
Shortly afterwards, Kuyt played the ball into the path of Charlie Adam; following some good build up play. Adam sent his sweetly struck shot against the underside of the crossbar with Howard beaten.
The Suarez-Carroll partnership had again struggled to ignite during the opening half. And Liverpool fans will still take some convincing that they can compliment each others game in the long term. Carroll, in particular was failing to pose a threat the Everton rearguard.
But, after a quite first period, Carroll sprung to life early in the second half. The striker twice connected with corner-kicks delivered by Adam. The first, Louis Saha had to acrobatically clear off his own goal line. Whist the second, Howard had to tip around his post at full stretch.
Liverpool were beginning to gain to some momentum. But the Blues delivered a reminder that the game was still tentatively balanced. Saha was given far too much time to turn and send a ferocious shot just wide of Reina’s right-hand post from the edge of the penalty area.
The introduction of Gerrard and Bellamy from the substitute’s bench for Adam and, the largely anonymous, Stewart Downing, may have proved pivotal. However, it was players who were already on the field who combined to win the match for Liverpool.
The opening goal was well worked. Bellamy eventually played in the overlapping Enrique down the left flank. And his cross was expertly left at the near post by a ducking Kuyt; to allow Carroll to fire a volley into the corner of the net, to the combined relief and delight of the travelling Reds.
And with 9 minutes remaining the result was sealed. Distin and Leighton Baines involved themselves in a mix-up, under pressure from the advancing Suarez. And the Uruguayan was not going to pass up possibly the easiest finish he will be granted in the Premier League this season.
Suarez’s fifth of the season ensured a comfortable Liverpool victory and sent the joyous travelling support home happy with bragging rights intact.
LFC: Reina Kelly, Carragher Skrtel,Enrique Kuyt, Lucas (Henderson, 88), Adam (Gerrard, 67), Downing (Craig Bellamy, 67), Carroll, Suárez.
Man of the Match: Jose Enrique
A composed presence at the back and, as ever, a reliable and potent option going forward.