Liverpool overcame Everton again at Anfield, winning 1-0
in an intense, scrappy Merseyside derby which always
threatened to boil over.
This was a battle, which featured two red cards and a
distinct lack of quality football, with Liverpool forced to
play with ten men for almost an hour, yet they prevailed
against Everton for the second time this season as Dirk Kuyt got the only goal in the 55th minute.
Jamie Carragher set the tone of the match with a heavy challenge in the first minute on Steven Pienaar, and the tackles were flying in from then on. Sotirios Kyrgiakos was sent off in the first half for a dangerous challenge on Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, who was equally full-blooded in the tackle.
Kyrgiakos may consider himself unlucky, and Fellaini was fortunate not to be sent off himself as he appeared to go over the top of Liverpool’s Greek defender. However, referee Martin Atkinson deemed the challenge worthy of a straight red card for Kyrgiakos, who later needed two stitches.
The Reds showed admirable resilience after being reduced to ten men and stifled Everton’s creativity thanks to resolute defending from the whole team. In particular, Carragher and captain Steven Gerrard proved how much the derby matters to local players, with both giving strong performances.
Kuyt kept up his remarkable goalscoring record against the Blues, getting the winner with a close-range, flicked header from a Gerrard corner. The Dutchman has now scored four times against Everton, including two match-winners, this time securing another three hard-fought points for Liverpool.
Yet again Rafa Benitez inspired his team to win an important home fixture, just as he did against Manchester United and Tottenham. With each victory Liverpool’s chances of finishing in the top four improve and the pressure eases on the manager.
Liverpool came into the game unbeaten in six league games with form slowly improving over the past month. On the pitch, things are getting better for the Reds, with key players to return in the coming weeks.
Everton were looking for revenge after the 2-0 defeat against Liverpool at Goodison Park in November, but will be disappointed that they failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage. The creativity they have shown in recent weeks was blocked by the home team’s rigid formation.
Pienaar was the second player to be sent off, dismissed for a second bookable offence deep in stoppage time, to conclude a miserable day for David Moyes’ team. Pienaar had been fortunate not to be sent off earlier in the match for a nasty tackle on Javier Mascherano.
On the eve of the game, Benitez had admitted that this derby was one of the most important of his reign, with Liverpool needing to put together a winning run to ensure a top-four finish. This game was the first of a trio of fixtures which could define Liverpool’s season, as they now travel to Arsenal and Manchester City.
By Chris Shaw
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Dirk Kuyt flicks his header past Tim Howard then turns to celebrate with Steven Gerrard