Monday, January 17, 2011

Liverpool 2 - 2 Everton

Dirk Kuyt's penalty earned Liverpool a draw in the Merseyside derby with Everton, leaving both sides only four points above the relegation zone.
Raul Meireles opened the scoring with an 18-yard drive after Tim Howard made a double save from Kuyt.
The visitors equalised when Sylvain Distin headed in at the back post before Jermaine Beckford lashed them ahead from close range minutes later.
But when Howard tripped Maxi Rodriguez in the box, Kuyt fired in to level.
With Kenny Dalglish returning to the Anfield dugout as Liverpool manager for the first time in 20 years, there was an air of expectation ahead of the derby clash, heightened by a rousing rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone before kick-off.
However, having replaced Roy Hodgson, Dalglish's return has not exactly gone according to plan so far, with an FA Cup defeat by Manchester United and a humbling at the hands of Blackpool in the week.
Everton, meanwhile, have struggled at Anfield in the past, winning only twice in 18 Premier League visits. But the Toffees' form of late suggested this could change, having beaten Manchester City and Tottenham in their last six games.
Without local boys Steven Gerrard (suspended) and Jamie Carragher (injured) for the 215th Merseyside derby, Dalglish sprung a surprise by including Wirral-born Jay Spearing for his second league start in a Liverpool shirt.
And the 22-year-old injected energy into Liverpool, playing in a combative central midfield trio along with Leiva Lucas and Meireles, which allowed the latter to maraud forward and assist Fernando Torres.
Torres, making his 100th league appearance for Liverpool, almost gave the home side a dream start but he fired his angled drive into the arms of Howard after only nine seconds.
The Spaniard was evidently in the mood and after 16 minutes only the width of the post stopped him opening the scoring following a fine solo effort where he rolled Distin, burst into the area and cut on to his left foot but his curling effort struck the post and Kuyt blazed the rebound over.
With little between the sides, Liverpool took the lead after 28 minutes when Glen Johnson's cross from the left was headed towards goal by Kuyt.
The Dutchman's header was saved low by Howard, who followed that by blocking Kuyt's follow-up shot with his legs but he could do little as Meireles smashed his first goal for Liverpool from 18 yards out.
Seconds later, with Everton reeling, Torres almost doubled the lead when he lashed in an effort but Howard again palmed away and Maxi headed his follow-up over the bar.
However, it only took Everton 43 seconds of the second half to equalise when Mikel Arteta's corner was met by Distin at the back post and the Frenchman out-jumped Martin Skrtel to power his header past Pepe Reina.
Dalglish had talked about Liverpool lacking belief prior to the game and that fragile confidence was again on show as Everton's equaliser immediately knocked the stuffing out of the Reds.
After 51 minutes the turnaround was complete when Leon Osman latched on to Victor Anichebe's flick on and slipped his pass through to Beckford, who was goal-side of Meireles and did not hesitate as he slammed his close-range effort past Reina.
With 20 minutes to play and his side in control, David Moyes might have been forgiven for entertaining the idea of presiding over a first win at Anfield but the derby was to throw up another twist.
Howard, the hero having already made several key saves, turned villain when he clipped the legs of Maxi as he touched the ball away from goal to concede a penalty.
Kuyt showed his composure to step up and drive his penalty into the right corner and set up a tense finale as both sides threw men forward.
Despite plenty of endeavour, quality and clear-cut chances were in short supply and the two sides, inseparable in terms of league points, ended the game with a point that would have done little to ease either side's fears of being dragged into a relegation tussle.

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