Saturday, February 6, 2010

Liverpool 1 - 0 Everton

Great LIVERPOOL FC spirit although with 10 players!!
Dirk Kuyt grabbed the only goal of the game to settle a truculent Merseyside derby as 10-man Liverpool beat Everton to further their top-four ambitions.
The Dutchman rose to head home a Steven Gerrard corner to settle a fierce game.
It was little more than the hosts deserved after recovering from Sotirios Kyrgiakos's first-half red card for a lunge at Marouane Fellaini.
Tim Cahill headed Everton's best chance over but the visitors rarely threatened before Stephen Pienaar's late red card.
The defeat ends a run of nine matches unbeaten for Everton, but manager David Moyes might quietly admit his side simply did not do enough to earn any more from a match that saw Liverpool play more than 60 minutes a man down.
For the Reds, though, it was a precious win that served to underline their renewed strength of late.
We can fight until end of season - Benitez
And with Tottenham and Aston Villa drawing in Saturday's later game, Rafael Benitez's side remained in fourth despite enduring a season to forget so far for many of their fans.
The red half of Merseyside have now secured 17 points from a possible 21 in their last seven league matches.
But few of those will have been earned in such trying circumstances from a pulsating encounter memorable as much for its ferocity as its football.
Referee Martin Atkinson was always likely to be a key figure in a fixture that before kick-off had seen more dismissals than any other in the Premier League, 17, and eight in the last 10 league games - and so it proved.
Keen to give the game a chance to flow, he allowed a host of forceful early challenges to go without sanction.
But if his hope was that the spice would soon temper, he was wrong, and his patience was exhausted as early as the half-hour mark.
Jamie Carragher was particularly aggressive in the opening exchanges, Fellaini was fortunate that Atkinson missed him kicking out at Kuyt after the striker had been felled, while a booking for Pienaar after he had raked his studs down Javier Mascherano's shin also looked lenient.
And so the home supporters were incensed when Kyrgiakos saw red.
The Greek defender's challenge on Fellaini was undoubtedly fierce, leaving the ground as he launched himself two-footed towards the ball.
However, replays suggested Fellaini was equally guilty of a misjudgement as he too missed the ball, succeeding only in connecting with Kyrgiakos's shin.
The Everton midfielder, stretchered off as a result of the challenge, was not punished, while Krygiakos had to have stitches in his leg in the dressing room before taking his early bath.
Amid the ferocity of the challenges, the match was barely allowed to flow, ensuring clear-cut chances were at a premium.
Leighton Baines forced Reds keeper Pepe Reina into action with a 20th-minute free-kick, while Gerrard crashed a whipped set-piece of his own on to the top of the bar in first half injury time.
The best chance of the half fell to Cahill, though, the Australian heading over on the dive just before the break after Mascherano's attempted clearance had fallen straight to him 10 yards out.
It was a miss he would rue 10 minutes into the second half. Kuyt was the scorer, muscling free of Phil Neville and Tim Howard to smartly nod in Gerrard's corner from close in.
It was the Dutchman's 50th goal in Liverpool colours and, with a record of only one goal against in their last six matches, the hosts visibly grew in confidence despite their numeric disadvantage. It was clear something had to change for the visitors if they were to make their extra man count, and Moyes reverted to 4-4-2 with 20 minutes left with the introduction of Yakubu and Victor Anichebe.
But it made little difference as Liverpool repelled Everton's increasingly desperate forays into the box with ease, even when Anichebe found room in the area in injury time as Reina and Daniel Agger combined to clear.
It was somewhat fitting, then, when Pienaar was handed a second yellow card deep into injury time as the Toffees' frustration got the better of them.
The result leaves Everton without a win at Anfield since 1999, and means they have it all to do if they are to continue their push for a top-six finish and European football.
However, Liverpool's recent renaissance continues and Benitez's promise of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification looks ever more possible on this form.

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