Welcome to Anfield.
Welcome to Wayne Rooney, Liverpool.
After Rooney's early exposure to the Premiership, Moyes decided
(quite rightly) that he did not have the team to play 4-3-3 and was
wasting both Radzinski and Rooney, forcing them out wide.
Consequently he made the very brave decision of reverting to a
two-man front line, benching Rooney and letting Radz show his close
Cue a unprecedented run of Everton Premiership victories and
sparkling cameo roles from the young star.
Last Saturday may well mark the end of that stage as, facing a
potential watershed in Everton's excellent season, Moyes elected to
give Rooney his lead in a two-man front line. And what a
Undeniably brilliant, Rooney took on the backline at every
opportunity, scored one fantastic goal and created another one with
a cracking swivel shot against the post. As hard as it was
before for Moyes to bench him it will only have got harder after
that! One place where he will not be resting him is Anfield.
I don't think I have looked forward to a Derby so much since Joe
Royle took over then it was with unfounded, blind, new-manager
first game induced optimism. Now it is based on a sustained
period of very good football providing us excellent results.
Now as we near the halfway point of the season it is based on us
having more points in the bag than they have.
Bringing us back down to earth is the news that the backline will
be shorn of its most impressive performers: Yobo, Unsworth
(suspensions) and Hibbert (injury) are all missing. Watson and
Pistone will probably fill in at fullback and the old pairing of
Stubbs and Weir will be reunited in the Premiership for the first
time since Yobo made his debut.
Elsewhere, the midfield picks itself again and our one true hope
and Young Personality of the Year (despite never having been
interviewed!) will play alongside a comparative old-stager Super
(because he is again) Kev.
For them - well given Houllier's pathetic, result induced panic
attacks, God knows what the team will be. Good news for us is
Hamann will be out he is essential to making them tick and
will be replaced by Diao. How Diao reacts to the the pace and frenzy
of this match could be key. Personally I thought he was poor
against Villa last night.
At the back? Upfront? Hyppia is expected to play and
Heskey is available again. Traore or Riise, please not Riise!
Lets hope Smicer retains his place one less for us to worry
Our biggest concern must be if Baros partners Owen and how we
cope with their pace. Without Yobo we will be forced to once
again defend deep, making our midfield drop and leaving Rooney and
Liverpool, after 1 point from their last 18, are definitely there
for the taking. Owen is very short on confidence, Gerrard is
playing abysmally and Hyppia far far from his imperious best.
Even Kirkland got his place in default from Dudek and must be
considered a weak point early on.
BUT, we all know what happens to form books etc when a derby
comes around. Liverpool are wounded badly so but that is
likely to provoke a very aggressive and animated response.
Weir and Stubbs will have a massive part to play and Wright as he
competes against the latest "Future England keeper" must
win that battle. Gravesen and Li Tie will need to give a full
90 minutes (please no Gemmill) but I think we all know where we will
be looking for inspiration.
It appears that the nation are all talking about Rooney.
Being based in London, all I hear is how Everton are a one-man team
and as much as we argue it we all know there is a semblance, at
least, of the truth. On Sunday I would be more than happy for
the Blues to be seen as one man as long as that One Man helps us
walk away with three points.
This game is going to be manic. We mustn't concede
early. We must still be in it with 30 minutes to go. If
we are ...... ROONEY
Blues retain 4th with moral victory
It was obvious as soon as it was announced that Graham Poll was
to referee this match that there would be controversy, and true to
form, Hertfordshire's-Most-Hated did enough to prevent an Everton
victory, just as he did a few years back when he bottled a decision
to allow a Don Hutchison goal by pretending he'd blown the full-time
whistle before the ball crossed the line.
A scrappy and goalless affair eventually hinged on a 14th-minute
aerial challenge in the Liverpool area between Stephan Henchoz and
Tomasz Radzinski. Henchoz clearly handled the ball and there was no
doubt that it was intentional, but Referee Poll took the easy way
out and awarded a free kick against the Everton striker.
However, as the game boiled over into the usual derby face-off in
the last ten minutes, two deliberate acts of violence that
illustrated the new Liverpool modus operandi in the
absence of the ability to win matches, hinder the opposition by
taking their players out went apparently unseen and therefore
unpunished by the match officials.
First, Milos Barros ran his studs down the face of Mark Pembridge
as the Welshman lay prone under his challenge and then Stephen
Gerrard lunged in late with both sets of studs into Gary Naysmith's
crotch; this latter incident sparked a shoving match between Gerrard
and first Naysmith, then Campbell and Rooney but, in the only
sensible piece of refereeing Poll managed all afternoon, the
incident passed without any further entries into the book.
Earlier, the dreadful Traore had been booked for poleaxing Lee
Carsley while a similar body check of Alan Stubbs by the equally
laughable Diao went unpunished, and Henchoz was also shown yellow
for hauling Radzinski down by the neck after the Pole had beaten him
for pace. Predictably, some of this unsportsmanlike treatment was
reserved for Rooney: often double-marked, the 17 year-old dynamo was
professionally fouled by Jamie Carragher and he too was rightfully
What little good football was played probably came out even.
Everton enjoyed greater possession in the first half but had only a
scuffed Radzinski effort from 8 yards that went wide and a Carsley
cross-cum-shot that Chris Kirkland did well to palm over to show for
their efforts. For Liverpool, Riise had three shots saved by Richard
Wright and Michael Owen (who never does well against his boyhood
team) headed wide from a free kick.
In the second period, it was the Reds who were the more incisive,
particularly after Smicer and Heskey had come on for Diao and Traore
just after half time. Heskey saw a diving header fly wide at the far
post from a free kick and should have done better one-on-one with
the 'keeper after being picked out by a long ball, while Smicer
despatched a shot from distance that Wright fumbled momentarily but
eventually managed to smother.
Everton, on the other hand, moved up a gear with the introduction
of Rooney in the 54th minute. Kirkland dropped a corner at
Campbell's feet but the Blues' number nine couldn't dig out an
opportunity and Stubbs headed another corner just wide as David
Moyes's men threatened from set pieces. In the 73rd minute, though,
fortune favoured Liverpool as Rooney was denied in the best chance
of the game. Picking up a loose ball on the edge of the area, he
took aim and fired but his low shot deflected off Henchoz, onto the
crossbar and over for a corner. So close to following the script
that everyone at Goodison and the media had written for him.
As the game entered its final stages, Everton began to lose theri
compusure in the face of Liverpool's increasing threat. Weir was
booked for a check on Owen, Campbell was righly carded for a late
tackle on Gerrard but when the out-of-form midfielder exacted his
retribution on Naysmith, no action was taken. When Naysmith took his
own revenge by catching Smicer late with a minute to go, though, he
went into Poll's book. Such is the equality adhered to by Graham
Overall, Everton are better than this performance suggested and
they could, with a bit more attacking invention, have come away with
all three points against a sorry collection of Liverpool players
who, in their new route-one guise, are a shadow of the team that was
so successful in the 1980s. However, with Jospeph Yobo and David
Unsworth out and Tony Hibbert only lasting an hour because of his
gashed leg, Moyes will be grateful for the clean sheet that was made
possible by a towering performance by David Weir and especially Alan
Stubbs. Allessandro Pistone was also magnificent at left back,
bringing back memories of his sterling displays at left back when
Moyes first arrived.
The midfield remains Everton's biggest problem. Gravesen had a
good first half, despite his penchant for giving the ball away, but
he was totally anonymous in the second half. With the workmanlike
Carsley and Pembridge fulfilling their pressing roles, the Blues
relied on the Dane for inspiration and, as is often the case, he
failed to deliver. It is this lact of craft in the middle of the
park that Moyes must try and address (assuming he can) when the
transfer window opens next week.
The important thing was that we didn't lose and a point from
Anfield is always good, especially when you can come away with a
moral victory, knowing that with better refereeing, the Blues may
well have won what was ultimately a disappointing derby encounter.