21 October 2007

Everton 1 Liverpool 2: Fireworks on Merseyside as Kuyt adds the final spark

Phil Neville thought he was a goalkeeper for a few crazy second and ended up with a red invitation to leave the pitch in 90th minutes.
By James Corrigan

The blood-and-thunder reputation of the English derby is forged on firecrackers such as this, and deep into the night Merseyside was rocking to the sound of controversy. Everton were the understandable drumbeaters, with so many grievances to bang on about that they did not really know where to start.
If they had not had a blatant last-second penalty turned down then Dirk Kuyt would have been chief of the blue bugbears, as the striker who converted Liverpool's two penalties – the last coming with a minute left of injury time – should not really have been on the pitch. His flying, two-footed tackle on Phil Neville in the 64th minute broke as many directives as it could have done bones. But instead it was Everton who saw red. Twice.
The second dismissal was inevitable after Neville desperately handled on the line, while the first, that of Tony Hibbert, had been less so. What angered Everton's manager, David Moyes, mostly was that the referee, Mark Clattenburg, seemingly changed his mind from merely awarding a yellow after a word from Steven Gerrard. It was the Liverpool captain who forced the equalising spot-kick having been brought down by the right-back when bearing down on Tim Howard. But it was also the Liverpool captain who ran over to Clattenburg when he saw the colour of the card being produced and then nodded when it was upgraded. This was the bizarrest moment in 90 minutes packed with them.
Gerrard himself did notescape the surrealism of it all, being hauled off by Rafa Benitez with 20 minutes remaining. The Liverpool manager could have claimed he was resting his star midfielder with Wednesday's Champions' League tusslein Istanbul in mind, but instead he told the truth. It will not make happy reading for Gerrard. "In League games like this you have to play with the brain not the heart," he said. "We needed to keep the ball."
In other words, Gerrard was doing that thing when he runs around the field like Superman, trying to effect miracle after miracle and all to no avail. He was plainly caught up in the passion of the event and it was brave of Benitez to act so decisively. How Gerrard might now react, however, may require more courage on the Spaniard's behalf.
Whatever, it was the red-faced Sami Hyppia rather than any hothead that began the fun. In the 38th minute, the centre-half instinctively stuck out his left boot as the ball flew back and forth across the area and was aghast when he connected solidly enough to poke it against the far post and on into the net. Everton could sniff their first back-to-back derby victory in a dozen years, although when Hibbert did the inevitable on Gerrard after he had been put through by Andriy Voronin the scent went decidedly chilly. The marching orders followed and then came Everton's retreat.
Saying that, Everton did have their chances, just as they had in the first half when Victor Anichebe headed narrowly over. Yakubu's sweetly struck left-footer from 30 yards scraped paint in the 67th minute although before and after, John Arne Riise skied over an empty goal, Voronin saw a header flash past and Mohammed Sissoko scuffed at point-blank range after a neat one-two with Kuyt. The last-named had already made Goodison wince with his sinister challenge on Neville; a shame, as Kuyt was otherwise excellent. Moyes was utterly bewildered by the reaction of Clattenburg. "The directive is that if your two feet are off the ground in the tackle then it's a red card," said the Scot. "He was four feet off the ground."
Benitez thought it was only deserving of a yellow, and the managers were to disagree on the game's last controversial moment too. Neville's handball in the first minute of added time was clear enough; he dived to his left to palm away the shot of Lucas – Gerrard's impressive Brazilian replacement – and allow Kuyt the glory shot. But then Jamie Carragher's pull-down on Joleon Lescott in the final seconds also seemed clear enough. "You don't like to see diving in England," barked Benitez. Lescott had not dived. That was an injustice. The Everton air was swirling with them.

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