Kenny Dalglish’s Merseyside derby return
THE script had been written and the expectant Anfield faithful were just
waiting for their players to act it out.
In the end, however, stage
fright got the better of them.
It would have been hugely fitting if
Liverpool had recorded a first win for new manager Kenny Dalglish on this, his
The Scot last led the Reds against Everton 20 years ago
when a thrilling 4-4 FA Cup draw at Goodison Park ultimately led to a
resignation that stunned the football world.
So, it was suitably apt
that his return to the Reds dugout yesterday afternoon would be once more
against his rivals from across Stanley Park.
But with the headlines
already prepared, Dalglish and Liverpool didn’t quite get the fairytale ending
they had hoped for.
A 2-2 draw was a fair result, but with the Reds
still just four points from the relegation zone, it was not nearly enough.
Liverpool were the better side in a keenly-contested first half, with
Raul Meireles’s blockbuster on 28 minutes sending King Kenny in at the break
with a grin on his face.
But the Reds’ calamitous defending once more
came back to haunt them in a disastrous six-minute spell straight after
Credit goes to David Moyes’ men for a spirited response to
going a goal behind, but Dalglish will be thinking long and hard about how he
band aids a rearguard which is now leaking preventable goals with alarming
Serious questions must be asked how Sylvain Distin was given
the freedom of Anfield to tower above Martin Skrtel to head home for Everton’s
And Liverpool were ultimately well and truly bullied into
conceding a second just minutes later as the Reds came off second best in a
series of challenges which led to Jermaine Beckford’s opportunistic strike.
Dalglish will have been heartened by a re-energised Fernando Torres, a
rugged display from Lucas in midfield and a marauding Glen Johnson in an
unfamiliar left-back role.
But despite a Dirk Kuyt penalty levelling
matters, Dalglish will be under no illusions he has much to do to turn
Liverpool’s season around.
Before the fixture, Everton boss David Moyes
spoke about his admiration for his fellow Scot, the two of them starting their
playing careers at Celtic.
But there is no love lost in these Merseyside
fixtures – 19 red cards in recent derby history tells its own story – and the
tackles were soon flying with Jay Spearing, a surprise call-up after his broken
ankle, at the heart of the blood and thunder.
Dalglish had made two
changes from the side which lost to Blackpool on Wednesday, with Maxi Rodriguez
and Spearing coming in for Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic, who both
failed to make the squad.
With Carragher and Gerrard missing, Torres was
deployed as a lone striker on his 100th Premiership Reds appearance in front of
a five-man midfield.
There was an electric atmosphere at Anfield with a
passionate rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone and banners on the Kop
proclaiming King Kenny’s return.
‘Kenny Dalglish is cooler than the
Fonz’, claimed one Red wag as the old stadium almost creaked with expectation of
Dalglish’s first win as caretaker boss.
Liverpool were quickest out the
blocks with Torres testing Howard with just 15 seconds on the clock.
Seamus Coleman dribbled an effort past Pepe Reina’s post before Martin
Kelly’s surging right-wing run raised the volume inside Anfield.
like at Blackpool, looked up for the fight and he was in the action again,
firing high over the bar after being found by Johnson.
The pumped up El
Nino got even closer minutes later when a great run ended in the Spaniard
cutting inside and thumping a left foot shot against Howard’s post before Kuyt
blazed the rebound over the bar.
Liverpool were the better side, Lucas
getting the better of Marouane Fellani and Mikel Arteta, and Johnson warming to
his task as an attacking left-back.
So it was little surprise when the
Reds made the most of their superiority with a fierce strike from Raul Meireles.
The ball fell to the Portuguese international after the persistent
Johnson had crossed for Kuyt, and although the Dutchman was brilliantly denied
twice by Howard, Meireles lashed home from 16 yards in thrilling fashion.
Everton may have thought they had taken the sting out of their rivals’
early momentum, but the Reds were flying now and they almost scored a second
when Howard beat away another Torres effort as Meireles and Maxi tried to bundle
home the scraps. This was a markedly improved Liverpool from last Wednesday’s
defeat at Blackpool with local lad Spearing’s pressing and harrying hugely well
received in the stands.
But an impressive first half soon lurched to
disaster as Everton grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck immediately after
Once again poor defending was to blame when, 40 seconds after
the interval, a Arteta corner found Distin loitering at the far post with far
too much room to power a header home. Six minutes later it got even worse for
Liverpool when Jermaine Beckford swept home after yet more dismal Reds
Kelly, Skrtel, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and finally Meireles were
all beaten as an Victor Anichebe header dropped to Leon Osman, and quick
footwork from the Blues midfielder led to Beckford, firing home.
Everton’s turn to enjoy the ascendancy now as Arteta and Felliani dictated
midfield and a Torres kick out at Phil Neville was indicative of Liverpool’s
But there is still character in this Reds side which
showed itself when they grabbed a much-needed lifeline.
kick dropped to Skrtel in the penalty box and his skewed effort squirted to Maxi
who was felled by Howard’s attempted sprawling save. A spotkick was the right
decision and Kuyt finished calmly.
Liverpool now had
the scent of victory and, buoyed by one committed Spearing tackle, they went
hunting for the win.
But aside from a tame effort from Torres, 15
minutes from the end, when the Spaniard chipped tamely at Howard while expecting
a linesman’s flag, it never looked like coming.
This wasn’t the
romantic ending that Dalglish and all his revering Liverpool fans had been
praying for before kick-off.
But then, the course of true love never did
“There is a lot we still have to analyse but really there
has been a lot of positive things from the players,” KENNY DALGLISH upbeat after
the 2-2 draw at Anfield.
“Liverpool won all the duels so it needed a
word to correct it at half-time and in the second half we were terrific. I
thought we had a chance when it went to 2-1 because we were on top but we were
missing three or four big players,” David Moyes felt Everton could have snatched
a victory having taken the lead.
LIVERPOOL (4-5-1): Reina (capt),
Johnson, Meireles (Shelvey, 80) Agger (Kyrgkiakos, 45), Torres, Rodriguez, Kuyt,
Spearing, Kelly, Skrtel
CARDS: Reina, Torres, Kuyt.
(4-4-2): Howard, Baines, Heitinga, Arteta, Distin, Beckford (Vaughan, 72)
Neville(capt), Osman (Rodwell, 77) Coleman, Fellani, Anichebe ( Bilyaletdinov
81) Subs: Mucha, Hibbert, Bilyaletdinov, Vaughan, Gueye, Rodwell, Baxter
GOALS: Meirles, 28, Kuyt, 67, Distin, 45, Beckford, 51
REFEREE: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).
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