Battle Of Merseyside: Victorious Reds
Kuyt reaches 50 goals.
The "friendly derby" they say, well judging by one of the first crunching tackles from Jamie Carragher on Stephen Pienaar, that was the yard stick for the game ahead. After leaving him on the floor and then trotting back to defence it was clear that this was going to be more about the battle and less about the wits.
With Everton on such a good run of form recently and the fact that they are still waiting to end their 11 year run of not being able to beat Liverpool on Anfield turf. Along with the pitiful fact that it is now 15years of trophy-less seasons for our bitter blue neighbours, they definitely had a point to prove.
Despite this, they never really turned up. They had flashes, but whatever minor threat they posed or chance they had it was dealt with. Perhaps not in a neat and tidy fashion but the fact is, the boys did us proud.
For the first half an hour or so, you would be forgiven for thinking that you had in fact turned up at an amphitheatre with the bulls of Everton charging into Liverpool red, whilst the matador's remained in control. Occasionally during these bouts of physical action, mainly concentrated in the midfield, some sort of footballing counter attack would occur, usually to no avail.
With players like Landon Donovan and Steven Gerrard showing flairs of ingenuity and attempting to be the game changers it was still a successful period for both the red and blue defences.
At 30minutes in, the first real challenge came in. And it was a bad, bad challenge.
When Javier Mascherano finds himself in possession of the ball, poised to make a pass, a charging Pienaar launches a high tackle towards the Argentinian. When the bottom of his boot clatters with Mascherano's shin and then immediately after scrapes down his leg, pulling down both his sock and only means of protection - his shin pad, Mascherano falls to the floor.
As many people have already described, that tackle quite simply could have been a leg breaker, it was late, it was high, it was wrong. But Martin Atkinson? No, he didn't appear to feel that this was a red card challenge. Pienaar walks away just cautioned whilst Mascherano, was quite lucky to even get up.
Not even 5 minutes later and Mr.Atkinson has suddenly realised how to referee, make no bones about it when a player comes into a tackle with two feet off the ground, there is every chance he is going to see red. Despite the fact that Kyrgiakos was quite low with the tackle and that he had ended up needing two stitches, i do not think we can really complain.
What we can complain about though is the sheer inconsistency of the referee, you can't allow Pienaar to remain on the field and then give Kyrgiakos his marching orders for a tackle that looked a lot worse than it was.
By half time it was still a stalemate, and despite the fight going on on the pitch being rather entertaining it was beginning to become rather frustrating, we needed to show Everton how we played football now, there was no more time for this physical battle if there was no end product to be seen.
Liverpool would be with 10 men for the full second half after seeing out the remainder of the first. Mascherano had been called into a right back position and Carragher pushed back into the centre.
Despite the fact Liverpool were disadvantaged numerically, Everton did not appear to be capitalizing on the deficit. Everton's only real chance was when Tim Cahill was presented with a delightful ball on the edge of the 6 yards box, he connected but sent the effort over Reina's cross bar.
For somebody dubbed the king of headers, i think it's only fair to say ... "I could of netted that." And to be honest, i think i could of...
Point being, he missed.
So with Reina still being kept relatively quiet, it was time for Tim Howard to be called to duty.
When Kuyt was stood awaiting a Steven Gerrard corner in the box between Howard and another blue shirt, they both appeared to be more focused on the man rather than the incoming cross. A great ball in by Steven Gerrard was met by a rather cramped Kuyt who made just enough space to connect and send the ball home. Dirk Kuyt may sometimes be frustrating but you can always count on him for a goal. Fantastic.
As the second half continued Liverpool saw David N'Gog leave the field for the controversial Twitterer Ryan Babel, again as always i was prepared to let him show his worth, but considering he was on the field for the best part of half an hour, he made little impact. Nothing in his stint told me he should be chosen before, Aurelio, Rodriguez or Riera for the match against Arsenal midweek.
Everton also made some changes with Yakubu being brought on and Anichebe replacing a very quiet Louis Saha.
Anichebe would prove to be something of a problem, and so would Yakubu but both for differing reasons.
Yakubu ended up having a great chance when he opted to go for goal, an unsuspecting Reina however dealt with the threat with a great save.
Anichebe decided that after Heitinga squared up to Steven Gerrard in apparent disgust at a great tackle by our skipper to run into the situation and get himself involved. Rather pathetically though, he ended up seeing yellow, this could have quiet easily have been prevented... Keep your soddin' nose out of it!
Agger telling him to "F*** OFF" was absolutely priceless.
Just one of the two latter cases of Everton getting impatient and quite frankly - silly.
However, the remaining incident resulted in justice done for Liverpool, and it perfectly wrapped up the game and the result.
When Steven Gerrard jumps up for a header Pienaar finds himself in trouble with the referee again after Gerrard was sent to the floor from the challenge. Perhaps a rather daft yellow card, but i have no sympathy for the man who should have been off the field some 60 minutes earlier.
Maxi Rodriguez was substituted in the dying minutes, his game i would say in general was pretty good, again it was one of those "just get on with it" games for the the new Anfield recruit, he remained relatively anonymous but as much as we may not have been able to highlight moments of brilliance, we could not highlight moments to be criticised.
A brilliant victory for Liverpool in a crucial stage of the season, with Arsenal up next and then Manchester City, the rewards that could be reaped from doing well in both those games are massive!
And on an final note, where are all you Rafa bashers? In my book if you dislike a manager, there is always something from a game, perhaps tactically that has to be questioned, whether it is a win or not, but no... They've all crawled back into Knee-Jerk Cave on No Facts road, ready to gather their opinions without any back up in case we happen to draw with Arsenal.
This behavior just proves how fickle some people are.
Rafa has done brilliantly in these last 7 matches, he deserves nothing but praise.
Oh and in case you haven't seen it...