Andrei Kanchelskis marked his first Merseyside derby with a glorious double to open his Everton account and ensure Joe Royle's Indian sign over Roy Evans was extended at Anfield.
The Ukrainian winger had been touted as the man who would turn Royle's "dogs of war" into genuine title challengers after his acrimonious 5 million pound move from Manchester United.
And while the shoulder injury sustained against his former club in September had left Kanchelskis in the stands as often as he was on the pitch, he showed just why Royle had been so willing to break the club's transfer record.
Kanchelskis, so successful in derby clashes when wearing United red, put the Everton fans into blue heaven when he created and finished the 53rd minute opener. The Russian international broke from deep before spreading wide to Paul Rideout on the right flank. Phil Babb stood off as Rideout shaped to cross, and that allowed time for Kanchelskis to steal into the box and thunder a 12-yard header in off David James' left-hand post.
Royle had started his spell as Everton boss with a derby win last season, and Kanchelskis made certain that he would mark the beginning of his second year in charge at Goodison with a similar triumph 21 minutes from time. Anders Limpar, whose own Everton future is clouded in doubt, found Kanchelskis on the right, with Babb again out of position, and when the winger struck low and true, James could only help the ball on its way.
The frustration of the Liverpool players -- who had twice found the net only for offside flags to chalk the strikes off -- was clear when a scramble in the Everton box turned into a handbags at dawn skirmish. But while they created plenty of chances, they could only find a way past Neville Southall a minute from time, Robbie Fowler shooting his 13th of the season, as Everton held on to hand the Reds their first home league defeat since April.
Yet Liverpool, with Jason McAteer in for the injured Jamie Redknapp in midfield, had made a start as vibrant as the Anfield atmosphere. Craig Short and John Ebbrell were forced into desperate clearances before the home side appeared to have taken an eighth minute lead with an intricate move. Steve McManaman's dummy allowed Rob Jones' pass to reach Robbie Fowler, and the youngster jinked inside before unleashing a right-footer Southall could not hold, Ian Rush steaming in to slam home. The skipper was still celebrating his record-extending 26th derby strike when the chorus of Kop boos alerted him to the linesman's flag.
It was an escape Everton drew inspiration from, and after John Scales was booked for a foul on Graham Stuart, a quality link-up between Limpar and Kanchelskis ended with the Ukrainian firing in a shot which James failed to hold, Jones coming to the rescue.
Rush then had two opportunities, both set up by Fowler, in as many minutes, first being foiled by the diving Southall and then blazing wide, before David Unsworth replaced the limping Gary Ablett.
But while Liverpool had plenty of possession, Everton began to look the more likely scorers. James saved from Stuart and then Joe Parkinson headed over from Kanchelskis. And in injury time, they came even closer. Matt Jackson's crossfield ball found Stuart, and when he spotted James off his line, the former Chelsea man's perfectly weighted curler dropped onto the post to bounce back off the unaware James and out for a corner.
Fowler had the ball in the Everton net four minutes after the restart, but the flag was already up against Steve Harkness, before Kanchelskis made his dramatic intervention. The confidence flowing through the Everton ranks after the goal was exemplified when Limpar was inches away from crashing home from 35 yards. But Liverpool were still passing the ball well, with Fowler and then McManaman both finding themselves with excellent shooting opportunities, only to provide Southall with the softest of catching practice.
Kanchelskis then struck the killer blow, his pace allowing him to race on to the Swede's ball before crashing in to consign Liverpool to their third straight defeat.
Everton boss Joe Royle watched the Andrei Kanchelskis double that gave the Goodison side their first Merseyside derby win in nine years and said: "He's still not fully fit." The Ukrainian winger was making only the eighth start of his injury-plagued season since the acrimonious 5 million pound move from Manchester United. But Kanchelskis marked his first taste of the peculiar passions of the Merseyside affair by opening his Everton account with a glorious header from Paul Rideout's cross.
Kanchelskis then doubled Everton's lead with a rasping right-footer 21 minutes from time and although Robbie Fowler claimed his 13th of the season a minute from time, he could not stop the Anfield outfit from slipping to their third straight defeat. Royle said: "Andrei's getting quicker every game. He's up to warp factor four now but there is still more to come. He even headed in the first and heading isn't in his contract. I don't know where that one came from."
It was an all-round display that showed why Royle had been so keen to land the former Manchester United man and the manager admitted: "I think that there are certain big game players but there aren't that many. But Andre is one of the few in the British game who can turn any game. He is quick and he is strong, as everybody knows, but he is also a terrific finisher and a good footballer. He's still not at his sharpest but it's getting closer."
Royle rightly felt his side had thoroughly deserved their victory. "You have to be strong here because they've got so many people who are good with the ball. But I felt we were unlucky not to be ahead at half-time because we had the clearer chances and its bloody marvellous to have come here and won."
While Royle, whose derby record since taking charge at Goodison 12 months ago shows two wins and a draw from three matches, was full of pleasure the contrast with Liverpool boss Roy Evans could not have been greater. "That was our worst performance of the season," said Evans. "We were very, very average. We defended poorly when they broke away and although we had our own chances we lost because of bad defending."
While Fowler scored late on, he was as guilty as the rest of his colleagues in effectively giving Neville Southall catching practise through most of the game. "You have spells when the ball doesn't go in and that seems to be the case at the moment," said Evans. "Even when it does go in the flag goes up as happened twice today but I was more disappointed because we didn't do ourselves justice."
Liverpool's misery was compounded by the late knee injury suffered by Ian Rush which threatens to keep the skipper out of Wednesday's trip to West Ham. Evans is still unsure of whether the condition of Stan Collymore's ill mother will allow the 8.5 million pound man to take part.
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