Liverpool fans finally have something to celebrate after
the Reds beat rivals Everton in the 207th Merseyside
derby. Despite another disappointing performance,
Liverpool’s luck turned and they enjoyed a smash and
grab success over the Toffees at Goodison Park.
Javier Mascherano’s speculative, and wayward, effort
was deflected past Tim Howard and then a mistake by
Joseph Yobo led to an easy tap-in for Dirk Kuyt. The
2-0 result concealed a performance lacking confidence
and cohesion, with Everton dominating much of the game.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez will hope that this is a turning point for the team and not another false dawn like the win over Manchester United. Going into the match with just two wins in 11 games and fresh from crashing out of the Champions League, this was a game which Liverpool simply had to get something out of. Indeed it is rare that both teams go into a derby in such bad form, with Everton struggling just as much as Liverpool this season. The match was a typical derby – plenty of hard work and crunching tackles but a distinct lack of real quality.
An extra cause for celebration for Liverpool fans will be the fabulous performance of Javier Mascherano. He has not been the same player this season having had his head turned by Barcelona in the summer, but he controlled the midfield and was a key component in keeping Everton out. His goal may have been fortunate but he deserved it for his performance, which was up there with his best for the club. Nobody likes to see players making a show of kissing the club badge as the Argentine did after his goal, but maybe he was trying to signal his commitment to the supporters.
Liverpool’s biggest problem this season has been at the back, as the previously solid defensive unit has been broken far too often. Pepe Reina has rarely been at fault though and has actually been the most consistent performer so far. He has made mistakes against Everton in the past but he has improved rapidly in recent years and is now one of Liverpool’s most important players. A clean sheet was vital and his phenomenal double save from Tim Cahill then Marouane Fellaini, when the match was still at 1-0, was a huge moment in the game.
One win does not make a season of course, and Liverpool still have problems. Fernando Torres is still hampered by injuries and the team do not look as potent without him. Steven Gerrard has returned from injury but his form should now be worrying the manager. The captain has been vocal in the press recently and gave a rousing team-talk to the players before kick-off but his own performances have been well below his usual high standards. Summer signing Alberto Aquilani has still not started a match as the manager tries to introduce him slowly after buying him with a long-term injury.
Despite the turbulent start to the season, Benitez appears to still retain the backing of the club’s owners and several players are coming back to fitness, giving the Spaniard almost a full squad to choose from. Fixtures during the Christmas period will come thick and fast and could provide an opportunity to put a winning run together.
Chelsea’s imperious form and considerable lead at the top of the table might put the title out of reach this season, but if Liverpool can finish in the top four and maintain their place in the elite it might not be such a disastrous season. In the short-term, Liverpool fans will just be happy to experience a win again, especially given that it came against the old enemy from across Stanley Park.
By Chris Shaw
Chief Sports Reporter
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