Nine-man Everton cry foul as Reds rule

Rarely has a Merseyside derby failed to provide controversy and confrontation, and with an own goal, two penalties, two red cards and plenty more this one was full to the brim.

In coming from behind to win with a penalty in stoppage time Liverpool preserved their unbeaten league record, though even at that late stage there was still time for Everton to feel hard done by. Jamie Carragher used a wrestling move to pull Joleon Lescott to the floor in the closing seconds, only for referee Mark Clattenburg to signal no foul and wave play on. Rafa Benitez later added insult to injury - he seems to have developed a knack for winding up his local rivals - by claiming Lescott had dived.

It was certainly no dive and Liverpool can count themselves lucky to escape with all three points. The fact they deserved all three points is neither here nor there. Playing against a 10-man Everton side for almost all of the second half Liverpool created enough clear-cut chances to win by a distance, yet managed to waste all of them. They finally penetrated Everton's increasingly desperate defensive scrambling in added time, when Phil Neville's outstretched arm illegally prevented Leiva Lucas marking his Liverpool debut with a derby-winning goal, though could not have complained had Dirk Kuyt's second success from the spot been answered by a penalty at the other end.

More red cards are shown in a Merseyside derby than any other Premier League fixture, and when Neville collected the second of his Everton career for his goal-keeping impersonation it took the total to 16. Everton have 10, Liverpool 6. Tony Hibbert had preceded his captain into the dressing room at the start of the second half for a foul on Steven Gerrard that simultaneously brought Liverpool back into the game and increased their chances of winning.

Everton had been slightly fortunate to turn round in front through Sami Hyypia's own goal, the defender's stab at a clearance from an Alan Stubbs cross flying past Jose Reina off an upright. That gave the home side confidence for the second half, so much so that David Moyes admitted a gamble in seeking a second goal from a 53rd-minute corner had backfired. Everton were caught with too many men upfield when Liverpool cleared and broke. Hibbert hesitated fatally in allowing Andriy Voronin to collect the ball in the centre circle, and was faced with a race he could not win when the Ukrainian's pass sent Gerrard galloping towards goal. Rejecting the cheaper option of fouling Gerrard outside the box, Hibbert rather sportingly waited to collide with his opponent inside the area, and was duly punished by a red card as well as Kuyt's opening goal. The referee initially brought out yellow, only changing it to red after Gerrard appeared to remind him of his obligation to dismiss an errant last defender.

Incident then piled on incident with Kuyt distinctly lucky to see only yellow for a two-footed lunge at Neville. Voronin, Momo Sissoko and John Arne Riise missed gilt-edged chances to make the game safe and Benitez eventually hauled off a surprised looking Gerrard to give the 20-year-old Brazilian Lucas a first taste of English football in the middle of an overheated derby. 'Sometimes you need to play with the brain and not the heart,' Benitez explained afterwards. 'You can have too much passion.'

Perhaps it was no accident that a Lucas shot led to the winning penalty, though if Voronin in particular had finished with his usual sharpness the passion might have drained from Everton much earlier. 'Making chances and not taking them has been the story of our season so far, but we are still getting the results,' Benitez said. Moyes was predictably less impressed by the refereeing standards on display. 'I thought it was clear penalty at the end and the referee had a very good view of the Kuyt challenge on Neville,' he said 'I don't know how if he sees that he can only give a yellow. What we've all been told this season is that anything two-footed and off the ground is an automatic red.'

The Everton manager's disappointment was understandable, though when all the dust has settled Moyes will have to consider how Everton came to lose a game they won by three goals last season. It cannot simply be down to Andy Johnson's injury. Yakubu and Victor Anichebe, Everton's new-look strike partnership, look mobile and muscular but actually delivered very little. Everton's problem, compounded by Hibbert's dismissal, was the same as England's in Russia, a defence pushed too far back without an effective link to bring the strikers into play. And Everton's proud record of not conceding a goal to Liverpool last season could easily have been buried under an avalanche here. With more composed finishing Liverpool might have won by three or four.

Sad to think that these derby occasions are under threat from Everton's proposed move to Kirkby. They will not be the same when the two clubs no longer live side by side, even if the rivalry continues. Exactly as a light aircraft circled Goodison trailing the slogan 'KEEP EVERTON IN OUR CITY', the Liverpool fans in the ground were hoisting a banner which read 'JUST GO'. They will miss each other if they are forced to part.

Match Facts
38' Hyypia (og) 1-0
53' Hibbert
54' 1-1 Kuyt (penalty)
64' Kuyt
89' McFadden
89' Carragher
90' 1-2 Kuyt (penalty)
90' Neville

Tim Howard, Tony Hibbert, Joleon Lescott, Phil Neville, Alan Stubbs, Joseph Yobo, Mikel Arteta, Phil Jagielka, Leon Osman, Victor Anichebe (Leighton Baines), Ayegbeni Yakubu (James McFadden)

Jose Manuel Reina, Jamie Carragher, Steve Finnan, Sami Hyypia, Yossi Benayoun (Ryan Babel), Steven Gerrard (Lucas Leiva), Javier Mascherano, John Arne Riise, Mohamed Sissoko (Jermaine Pennant), Dirk Kuyt, Andriy Voronin

Referee: Clattenburg, M

Venue: Goodison Park

Attendance: 40,049

Everton 9
Liverpool 6

Goal Attempts:
Everton 6
Liverpool 19

On Target:
Everton 1
Liverpool 9

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

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