Liverpool’s 3-1 win in the derby at Goodison Park saw them take their winning run to nine-in-a-row in the league, although their run of clean-sheets in finally came to an end with Beattie’s goal just before half-time. For large parts of the game Liverpool were in control, but perhaps a little too often took their foot off the pedal a little and allowed Everton some chances. It’s the third Everton game in a row to see four goals scored, and tonight was the first time any of the goals were theirs. Manchester United dropped two points tonight, meaning Liverpool stay in third but are now just four points behind United with two games in hand.
Rafael Benitez was generally happy, after all his team had the points in the bag, but he did have some cause for concern with certain aspects. He said after the game: “I am very happy but at times in the first half Everton caused us problems in the air and we were not winning second balls. We can play a lot better and have played better this season. The team is playing well and with confidence.”
This was Rafa’s third game against Everton, and he seems now to be well aware of how they like to play: “We knew before the game it would be physical and we knew what to do. The whole team worked hard, everybody. We started at a high tempo, we knew they would make some mistakes and we wanted to take advantage of that.” Rafa says Liverpool now have personnel capable of dealing with roughhouse tactics: “The big difference for us this season is we know how to handle the physical games and we have players like Sissoko, Crouch and Reina who have helped us do that.”
Crouch scored again for the Reds, but that’s not the only part of his game Rafa is pleased with: “Crouch is playing well and scoring goals for us and I’m very happy with him but the most important thing is he continues to play well. Before the game I wanted to use two different kinds of players against Everton and play Cisse with Crouch. Cisse has the pace and can run into wide areas and Crouch is good in the air and can hold the ball up.” Bear those comments in mind next time you hear Cisse is on his way back to France in January. Cisse continues to work hard whenever he gets on the pitch and Rafa needs him, even if not for every game. His goal tonight was just reward for all his endeavours.
Steven Gerrard scored Liverpool’s other goal, with one his wonder strikes, and he was pleased with his effort: “I practise shooting as much as I can and although tonight’s goal took a bit of a deflection I’ll take it.” Perhaps Gerrard was expecting to hear his goal had been taken away from him, but the Press Association seemed to have missed the deflection this time and so didn’t try and credit it as an own goal. The deflection made little difference; the ball was already on target and heading for the back of the net with Nigel Martyn unsighted.
Gerrard also reaffirmed Liverpool’s aim to keep plugging away for a crack at the title: “If Man United and Chelsea drop points then we want to make sure we can take advantage. Chelsea won 1-0 tonight so it doesn’t look like they’re going to make too many mistakes. We just have to concentrate on ourselves and look to win our games. We played well at Everton, deserved the victory and now we have to look to the next match in a few days time against West Brom. We’ll keep going, trying to make up ground.”
Stevie of course had that extra bit of delight from tonight’s win over the bitter blues: “It’s also special to win a derby game and even more so for the local lads because we have a lot of family and friends at the game. We’ve got the bragging rights until the next derby now.”
Another local-lad in tonight’s Liverpool team was Jamie Carragher, himself a blue for a short time as a youngster. Although of course delighted to see Everton beaten, he was disappointed that the run of league clean-sheets had come to an end: “We were disappointed with that; coming so close to half time we should have used our heads a bit more and played percentages. As a defender you want to keep a clean sheet and so that’s why we’re disappointed they scored. Also we are disappointed to concede because the aim before the game was to keep a clean sheet and we haven’t done it”
Carra felt that the third goal was the killer for Everton: “Djibril got an early goal for us in the second half and that was probably the turning point. We were expecting a battle in the second half but the third goal killed the game. The derby game is my favourite of the year, especially at Goodison, and so it’s nice to win. I know how much this game means – people talk about the Manchester United games but I think for me and Steven it’s the biggest game of the season.”
As for under-fire Everton manager David Moyes, he felt there were a lot of positives to take from the game: “We conceded goals at bad times but I’m really pleased with the boys’ effort. The players gave their all but we lost a goal in the opening minute which was unbelievable but credit to them, they kept going, but it wasn’t to be.”
Moyes has seen his side move from fourth at the end of last season to fourth-from-bottom tonight, just three points from a relegation place. He blames referees for it: “The way it’s been recently, we’ve not quite been getting decisions. I felt the ball hadn’t gone over the line before James Beattie’s disallowed goal, but that wasn’t the reason we lost.” TV replays did show that the ball had stayed in before being crossed, but Liverpool players stopped as soon as the referee blew for a goal-kick – whether Beattie would have otherwise scored will never be known.
For Moyes the loss of two players was unnecessary, but avoidable: “I was disappointed with the sendings-off, the boys should have known better when they were on bookings.”