FERNANDO TORRES was Liverpool’s derby day executioner – as Everton once again saw red in the 208th Merseyside derby.
Torres struck twice in the space of three minutes either side of the hour, and was even denied a hat-trick by referee Mike Riley.
And an unhappy afternoon for Everton was made even worse when the influential Tim Cahill was sent-off 10 minutes from time for an ugly challenge on Xabi Alonso.
Robbie Keane is still waiting for his first Liverpool goal.
But the Reds £20m striker carved a significant chunk off his transfer fee with the cross which invited his strike partner to make the decisive derby breakthrough at Goodison Park.
Torres had cut a frustrated figure for 58 minutes, even finding himself booked 10 minutes earlier, then Keane wriggled onto Gerarrd’s pass, got to the byline and clipped back a supremely inviting cross for his strike partner to race onto and crash past the exposed Howard.
Three minutes later Torres struck again and the destiny of the 208th derby was secure.
The match might have been different had Cahill managed to convert a glorious 13th minute opening, but he missed his kick from six yards and after the break Liverpool always looked the more threatening.
The Reds enjoyed enormous amounts of possession, but failed to trouble Tim Howard once in the opening 45 minutes.
Everton, however, carved out a wonderful chance after just 13 minutes and it was a major shock when Cahill failed to connect.
Arteta’s corner squirted across the edge of the Reds six yard box through a possee of players before it found the unmarked Australian just six yards out.
Cahill seemed almost surprised the ball had reached him and totally missed his kick.
Four minutes later the impressive Albert Riera got to the byline and pulled back a cross for Torres. The striker turned and got off a shot, but Yobo lunged in to make a decisive block.
The appointment of the always card happy Mike Riley as referee had been met with raised eyebrows on both sides of Stanley Park.
And he took just eight minutes to flash his first yellow.
Marouane Fellaini was the recipient for a challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa which was late and a fraction high.
The Blues’ record signing has made a slow start to his Goodison career and looked off the pace for the first 15 minutes.
But he seemed to grow into the match and in the 27th minute had an opportunity to write his name into derby folklore.
Lescott’s cross from the left found the towering Belgian isolated with goalkeeper Pepe Reina and as he challenged the ball fell sweetly for his right foot.
He could have prodded the ball into a gaping net, but elected to hammer it and Carragher somehow got back to make a monumental block.
The moment was meaningless, because referee Riley had already blown for a foul on the goalkeeper – a decision which looked harsh on replay, but it highlighted Fellaini’s growing influence on the match.
Rival strikers Yakubu and Torres had been the men both sides were looking to for a breakthrough, but within minutes of the second half restarting both found their names in the referee’s notebook.
Yakubu transgressed first.
Arteta’s ability tricked Dossena then a diagonal pass gave Yakubu the invitation to run at Skrtel. The African sprinted into the penalty area then collapsed claiming a penalty.
Contact, if at all, had been minimal however and referee Riley brandished a yellow for simulation.
Torres, who had been questioning decisions all afternoon, made one enquiry too many two minutes later and also found himself booked.
But he was unhappy for barely 10 minutes.
Keane supplied the cross which the Spaniard crashed past Howard, then barely three minutes later he struck again.
Strike partner Keane was involved for a second time, threading a pass into the penalty area for Kuyt. Phil Jagielka made a well timed tackle, but the ball broke kindly for Torres and he finished comprehensively into the roof of the Gwladys Street net.
The striker might even have been celebrating a seven minute hat-trick .
He finished supremely again from the right hand edge of the Everton penalty area – but a first derby hat-trick since Ian Rush was ruled out for a foul by Kuyt.
Everton brought on Louis Saha in a desperate bid to get back into the match, and they were unfortunate when Gerrard made a brave block to deny the substitute from a corner kick.
But there was worse to come for the Blues when Tim Cahill saw red 10 minutes from time.
The midfielder’s challenge on Alonso was high and late and left the Spaniard writhing on the turf.
Riley deliberated long and hard about his decision, as Cahill raced as far away from the incident as possible, but when the card eventually came it signalled an early bath and a three-match ban for the influential midfielder.
EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Howard, Hibbert (Saha 63), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Osman, Fellaini, Neville, Arteta; Cahill; Yakubu. Unused substitutes: Nash, Baines, Castillo, Vaughan, Valente, Rodwell.
LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Dossena; Kuyt, Alonso (Lucas 85), Gerrard, Riera (Aurelio 66); Keane (Pennant 85), Torres. Unused substitutes: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Agger, Babel.
Referee: Mike Riley.
Bookings: Fellaini (8 mins) foul, Alonso (38 mins) foul, Yakubu (47 mins) diving, Torres (49 mins) dissent, Neville (63 mins) foul, Arbeloa (76 mins) foul.
Sending-off: Cahill (80 mins) foul.
GOALS: Torres (58 mins) 0-1, Torres (61 mins) 0-2.
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