Sunday, September 2, 2007


Liverpool demolished Derby at Anfield to move top of the Premiership table for the first time under Rafael Benitez. A brace apiece from Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres helped leave the Rams at the bottom of the table as the only side without a win in the top flight.Benitez made five changes to his side, with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher still out and Peter Crouch not even making the squad. Billy Davies also rotated his side, making six changes in attempt to find the net at one end and keep goals out at the other.But it didn’t work as Liverpool took Derby apart and could’ve scored a hatful of goals as they threatened to turn the scoreboard into one more fitting of the Oval.Stephen Bywater was the busier goalkeeper and had to warm his hands early on when he made an excellent one-handed save from Agger’s drive. Then weak defending allowed Pennant to run and cross before Torres beat defender and Bywater saved again.The Derby goal was constantly under threat from the influential Pennant and it was a foul on him which brought the opening goal. Alonso’s diagonal free kick from 35 yards saw Dirk Kuyt run in box distract the defence and the ball went under Bywater into the corner for 1-0.Liverpool continued to make chances and Kuyt couldn’t keep header down and it looked as though Derby could go into the break just a goal ahead. But summer signing Ryan Babel doubled the lead in injury time at the end of the first half with his first goal for the Reds. Arbeloa, a threat all afternoon, played the ball across the 18-yard box. Babel dummied a shot, which saw two Derby defenders rashly dive across each other, leaving Babel the space he needed to coolly slot the ball into the net. The second half saw the Reds continue their dominance and Alonso’s early shot was off target after a strong run by Arbeloa. But just 11 minutes into the half saw Torres score his first of the game to put the result beyond doubt. Another hesitant bit of play from Robert Malcolm allowed Mascherano to make an excellent sliding tackle to win ball on the inside right and Torres made a confident strong run on goal to slot past keeper.The Spaniard should’ve completed his hat trick shortly afterwards when he picked up Babel’s deflected shot, but he dragged his effort wide. Alonso then scored his second of the game when he coolly side-footed home from 20 yards. Babel found too much space on the right after a good pass from Mascherano and slid ball across goal. A solid tackle from substitute McEveley on Benayoun looked to have cleared the danger but the ball only came out to Alonso who steered the ball past Bywater for Liverpool’s fourth. Andriy Voronin got on the score sheet again when he tapped in after 76 minutes to continue the Liverpool rout. Kuyt crossed from right and Bywater, standing at the near post, could only push the ball out to Voronin who scored his third goal in four games from close rangeBut Liverpool still weren’t finished. Torres added his second just two minutes later when he pounced on a poor back pass from Andy Todd to beat Stephen Bywater. The defender lost concentration outside his own area and didn’t make a good connection with the ball, allowing Torres to simply round the keeper and put the ball into an empty net.Fagan summed up Derby’s season so far when he didn’t connect with the ball under Reina’s nose and he weakly skewed the ball embarrassingly wide. With Derby only having two shots all game, this was a chance to get at least one of them on target, but they didn’t even manage that.Liverpool were well in control for the entire game against a weak Derby team who left too much space, didn’t compete enough for the ball and were outclassed in every area of the pitch. It wasn’t just the pace of Torres, the creativity of Pennant or the sublime play of Babel or Mascherano, but the whole fluidity and strength of the powerhouse team which has burst their way to the top of the table.As for Derby, Billy Davies admits that the team needs to come out fighting from the first whistle, but it’s more than this. They are a weak side and need to write off games like this, concentrating instead on the other sides in the Premier League where games are more six-pointers. No doubt they’ll have a struggle this season, but if they can find their feet in the next few games they can at least put up more of a fight than this.Derby are now looking in desperate trouble having conceded an average of three goals a game in their opening five league games and being knocked out of the Carling Cup by Blackpool. With the leakiest defence in England’s top four divisions, Billy Davie has his work cut out.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Agger, Arbeloa, Pennant (Benayoun 61), Mascherano (Sissoko 77), Alonso, Babel (Voronin 73), Torres, Kuyt.

Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise.

Derby: Bywater, Griffin (Moore 80), Malcolm (Teale 59), Davis, Camara (McEveley 63), Todd, Fagan, Oakley, Mears, Pearson, Howard.

Subs Not Used: Price, Earnshaw.

Att: 44,076

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