Robbie Fowler was sent off as Liverpool lost their way tonight and the chance to regain top spot in the FA Carling Premiership.
The Anfield striker was dismissed along with Everton defender David Unsworth eight minutes from time in this 156th Merseyside derby. Both players had been niggling at each other throughout the game and Fowler threw a punch after Unsworth appeared to go clean through on him. Referee Stephen Lodge immediately brandished the red card. But Fowler could find himself in more hot water with the Football Association after retaliating again and he was escorted off the pitch by Liverpool coach Ronnie Moran and physio Mark Leather.
The police also intervened and held back Unsworth until Fowler had reached the dressing room.
It was an unsavoury end to a match that Liverpool needed to win by at least two clear goals to overtake Manchester United at the top of the Premiership. Instead they had to settle for a point after Duncan Ferguson cancelled out the opening goal from Jamie Redknapp.
But Liverpool did move into second spot two points behind United who visit Anfield on Saturday in what could now be the title decider.
Everton's night got off to a bad start when central defender Craig Short was taken to hospital for precautionary X-rays on a neck injury after an accidental collision with Fowler in the 18th minute. The Everton defender fell over the England striker as he stood his ground and immediately signalled his distress when he fell to the floor. Short left the pitch with his head supported with a surgical collar after receiving treatment from a squad of paramedics. The game was held up for four minutes while Short, who had previously been sidelined because of a back injury, was attended to.
Fowler and Unsworth will both receive a three-match ban starting in a fortnight's time. This means Fowler will miss the potentially vital last three games of Liverpool's campaign against Tottenham, Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday.
And Richard Dunne, called into the Republic of Ireland squad today, picked up a booking after only seven minutes for a stiff challenge on Fowler.
Liverpool settled into their rhythm quickly and keeper Neville Southall did well to turn away a shot from Steve McManaman after Stig Bjornebye had played the ball in. The pair again linked up eight minutes later with England winger McManaman flicking a free header beyond Southall but wide of the post.
Liverpool made the breakthrough after 26 minutes when McManaman and Fowler played a neat one-two that prized open the Everton defence. McManaman squared the ball across the face of the box and Redknapp steered it home for only his third goal of the season.
Michael Thomas rescued Liverpool a minute later when he cleared off the line after Ferguson had powered in a header following a corner from Graham Stuart.
Liverpool keeper David James pushed over another header from Ferguson and then did well to palm away a shot from Claus Thomsen.
Liverpool almost added a second when Southall tipped away a shot from McManaman only for Ferguson to pull Everton level after 65 minutes. Stuart swung in the cross and Steve Harkness in attempting to clear only steered the ball into Ferguson's path. He turned quickly on the edge of the area to deliver a stunning shot beyond James into the corner.
But Liverpool should have sewn the game up in the space of two remarkable minutes when Fowler saw his effort hit the bar after Bjornebye had delivered the cross. Then a minute later Southall brilliantly turned away a shot by Redknapp.
Liverpool's pressure was incessant and Fowler knocked the ball against the post when it seemed easier to score after McManaman had played the ball in. But Liverpool's 30-goal top scorer will now find his season coming to an abrupt end as he will be serving out this suspension along with Unsworth for violent conduct.
Everton: Southall, Barrett, Watson, Unsworth, Stuart, Short (Ball, 23), Ferguson, Speed, Thomsen (Barmby, 63), Branch, Dunne.
Subs not used: Gerrard, Hottiger, Hills.
Booked: Dunne, Stuart.
Liverpool's line-up on LFChistory
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