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Barmby sticks to the script

DERBIES aren't meant to be like this.

Amid the frenzied atmosphere and tension, creativity is usually stifled and raw aggression wins the derby day.

But this was a superb spectacle in which both sides played their part to produce a quality yet hugely passionate game of football.

Liverpool took their time to get going, but when they did they bossed the game and were well worth their victory.

The Blues were left to rue missed opportunities in the early stages.

Indeed, after a passive first half by the Reds, there was a certain sense of relief on their part they were level at the interval.

It was the visitors who created the best chances in the first half and they should have had a lead to protect when the second half barrage began.

Mark Pembridge will be left to ponder how he missed two glaring chances to give the Blues the perfect start.

His first came within five minutes when Thomas Gravesen sent him one on one with Sander Westerveld.

The finish was awful.

Pembridge did find his target six minutes later with a lunge on Nick Barmby which brought the game's first yellow card.

Barmby would have his answer within 60 seconds.

It was inevitable Barmby would score his first Premiership goal against his former club.

The script was pre-ordained as he headed Christian Ziege's wayward shot into the roof of the net to spark wild celebrations.

Barmby milked the moment and on home territory he was suitably inspired to produce one of his best displays in a Liverpool shirt.

After all the hype and attention, he revelled in his second of glory.

His timing was immaculate too as he drowned out the chants of "Judas" and worse to give Liverpool an 11th minute lead.

It was a welcome bonus for the Reds who'd been slowest to get into their stride.

But rather than give them the platform on which to settle into a more fluent game, they remained second best for long periods of the opening 45 minutes.

Pembridge should have equalised immediately, but he hit wastefully wide with the goal at his mercy after Idan Tal's head back.

It was no surprise when the equaliser finally arrived.

Westerveld's indecision with high balls into the box was exposed again as David Weir headed Tal's corner across the six yard box for Campbell to nod in.

Chances were at a premium for the rest of the half, although it was Everton who were enjoying greater possession.

For the first 45 minutes, Paul Gascoigne was running the midfield while Didi Hamann and Gary McAllister struggled to get a grip on the game.

One imagined the half-time pep talk gave one or two of the red shirts a wake-up call in derby reality.

Liverpool had to earn the right to get their passing game going and that's precisely what they did.

Things changed radically in the second half as Liverpool dominated, took control and buried the game.

Heskey was leading the improvement with yet another monumental performance.

His touch, movement and ability to hurt opponents has advanced his game beyond recognition to that which he showed when he first arrived.

Heskey struck his sixth goal in four games to give Liverpool the ascendency on 55 minutes.

Paul Gerrard may have been taken by surprise by the speed of the shot as it flew into his bottom corner.

From that point on there was no way back for Everton as Liverpool started to find their form.

When the lively substitute Vladimir Smicer accepted Westerveld's clever throw to race through on goal, a third looked inevitable until Gravesen's ill-fated intervention ended the contest.

Berger blasted in the 76th minute penalty and the ten men waited for the final whistle in the hope of avoiding further damage.

Everton could reflect on what might have been had they taken their chances, but for Liverpool it was another encouraging display with signs they are a genuine Premiership force again.

Michael Owen apart, this was arguably the best eleven Liverpool has and they found the extra gears required to turn the game in their favour.

In Steven Gerrard, Liverpool also had the game's outstanding performer.

Even at right back his ferocious tackling and distribution shone.

Gerrard is a magnificent player. A gem. He could play anywhere, and has, and while the label "central midfielder" should be stuck to him with extra-adhesive tape, it's clear he's the best right back in the country too. And left back for that matter.

Gerard Houllier explained he was playing him on the right to protect him from the more demanding midfield areas where his niggling injury takes its toll.

Understandable if it means the side aren't going to be regularly deprived of his services.

When a right back can dominate the game in such a fashion, he must be a special talent.

The celebrations on the final whistle vividly highlighted how much this victory meant to Liverpool.

There's a lot of nonsense talked about this being "just another game".

It isn't and never will be.

Winning it gives Houllier's side another huge injection of confidence and belief ahead of more crucial games this week.

If they continue to battle this hard, and play such quality football, it can only be a matter of time before a new era of success comes the club's way.

Liverpool: Westerveld; Gerrard (Carragher 86), Hyypia, Babbel, Ziege; Barmby, Hamann, McAllister, Berger; Fowler (Smicer 68), Heskey not used: Arphexad, Murphy, Traore.

Everton: Gerrard; Watson, Weir, Xavier, Ball (Naysmith 53); Gravesen, Nyarko, Gascoigne, Pembridge, Tal (Max-Moore 66); Campbell.

Subs not used: Unsworth, Simonsen, Gemmill.

Referee: Paul Durkin.

Bookings: Pembridge (foul).

Sent off: Gravesen (professional foul).

Goals: Barmby (11), Campbell (17), Heskey (55), Berger (76).

Attendance: 44,718.

Liverpool Star Man: Steven Gerrard. Sensational display by the youngster. Nothing got past him. Showed physical strength and skill to shine.

Everton Star Man: Paul Gascoigne. Competitive and controlled throughout.

How they rated

Liverpool

SANDER WESTERVELD: Still looks far from comfortable. Didn't dominate his area enough, especially on Everton's equaliser, but saved well from Pembridge in the second half and his quick thinking led to Liverpool's third. Score 6.

STEVEN GERRARD: Outstanding. Grew in stature as the match progressed and in the second half especially he looked the complete full back. Which he's not, he's a midfielder of course. Man of the match. Score 9.

MARKUS BABBEL: Steady and assured at the back. Held the defence together well during a rocky opening half hour. Score 7.

SAMI HYYPIA: Uncharacteristically shaky at the start, when his passing letting him down. Second half was more like his accomplished self, however, as he stifled the threat of Campbell. Score 7.

CHRISTIAN ZIEGE: Distribution very sloppy in the first half but remained dangerous when he found himself with the ball in advanced positions. Given a hard time by Gravesen for the first hour. Score 6.

NICK BARMBY: Scored one, made one - talk about letting the occasion get to him! Industrious as ever, was a key link in the opening 45 minutes when his team-mates struggled to impose themselves. Score 8.

DIETMAR HAMANN: Failed to impose himself on proceedings, but helped shackle Gascoigne more effectively as the match wore on. Score 6.

GARY McALLISTER: Never allowed the time and space to control play as in recent weeks as the packed Everton midfield deliberately closed him down. Escaped their attentions after the break and was instrumental in his side's second half dominance. Score 7.

PATRIK BERGER: So often a potent weapon against Everton but not this time. Started sluggishly but recovered late on, linking up well with substitute Smicer. A fine penalty to seal the victory as well. Score 7.

EMILE HESKEY: Once the passes started to find him, the big man was a constant menace to Everton, pulling their defence everywhere at times. Scored an exceptional goal which helped turn the tide the Reds way. Score 8.

ROBBIE FOWLER: Cannot be faulted for effort at the moment, but still a long way off match pace. Substituted with 20 minutes remaining. Score 6.

EVERTON

PAUL GERRARD: The wet surface and bounce may have been mitigating factors, but he should have done better with Heskey's strike. Otherwise, he produced a number of excellent stops and could not be faulted for the other two Liverpool goals. Score 7.

STEVE WATSON: Not able to get forward as much as he would have liked. Made a few important tackles and stifled Berger's threat early on, without ever imposing himself on the game. Score 6.

ABEL XAVIER: Continuing signs that his partnership with Weir is a productive one and kept Fowler quiet before coming unstuck by Smicer's trickery when he arrived on the scene. Score 7.

DAVID WEIR: A difficult task marking the resurgent force of Heskey but handled the job well for the most part. Good in the air, tidy on the ball, though occasionally caught out. Score 7.

MICHAEL BALL: Devastated to go off injured just after the restart and with some justification. He was enjoying an excellent battle with Barmby and his distribution was good and the Blues looked comfortable until his departure. Score 7.

THOMAS GRAVESEN: Can have no complaints about the sending off which marred an otherwise productive afternoon. Especially prominent in the first half and revelled in the derby atmosphere. Score 7.

ALEX NYARKO: Good when things were going his side's way, disappointing when they did not. Quick and confident in the first half but failed to continue that form after the interval when he was caught in possession too often. Score 6.

PAUL GASCOIGNE: A wonderful midfield performance for 45 minutes, vintage stuff. Battled gamely in the second half but without the same end product. Everton's man of the match. Score 8.

MARK PEMBRIDGE: Left to rue two fine first half chances which could have changed the course of the game. Deservedly booked but as industrious as ever. Score 7.

IDAN TAL: Bright and inventive in the first half, when he gave the excellent Steven Gerrard a few difficult moments. Crossing is a welcome weapon for the Blues as he showed in their equaliser. Faded badly after the interval. Score 6.

KEVIN CAMPBELL: Livelier than in recent games as his match fitness returns. Scored at Anfield for the second successive year but too isolated in the second half when the Blues midfield were on the back foot. Score 6.

Copyright - Liverpool Echo

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