COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
On the way down the East Lancs Road another mate whom I was giving a lift to Liverpool anyway gets a call from his Dad saying he had a spare for the match… the lucky begger.
We parked up down some random street near the ground and headed on up the road. I’d already received a text from Gary at this point saying to get to The Spellow so I knew where I had to go, whilst my mate (also called Gary) met his Dad at The Springwood. Up the road there was a pub called the Top House. This was my marker for getting back after the game as I had no idea where I was. I followed the mini-crowd towards the ground and grabbed a chippy on the way, meeting Gary in The Spellow as agreed, with Ste arriving a little later.
The pub was packed. Everyone was up for this one! I’d forgotten the way back to my car, and also the name of the pub near where it was parked and so achieved blank expressions from the bar staff when I asked where the Old Hat was. Eventually they figured out I meant the Top House and I was given pretty good directions back for later on.
We got to our seats just, and I do mean just, in time for Z-Cars. As seems to be the norm this season we lost the toss and so attacked the Lower Gwladys in the first half. The team was of course the same as we don’t really have any alternative, and we had one less alternative with the axing of Victor Anichabe from the squad after yesterday’s tiff with Moyes. Liverpool were clearly taking this seriously though, putting out a strong side including Gerrard, Torres, Alonso, Carragher, Reina, Riera, Arbeloa and Lucas. The referee was Alan Wiley.
Liverpool settled into the game the quickest with a lot of possession and some fast, flowing football. We did get into our stride before long though, putting Liverpool onto the back foot for quite a long period, in which Osman volleyed well over the bar with a half decent chance.
Early in the game, Liverpool were forced into a change with Gerrard coming off injured with a hamstring strain to be replaced by Yossi Benayoun. Surely now a great chance for Everton. The first half battled itself out with the only real negatives being unfair bookings to Cahill and Pienaar.
At half-time there were two big applauses. One for the recently deceased Phil Euston whom I always remembered on Radio City, and the other our new signing Jô, who came out onto the pitch to be greeted by the crowd.
There were no changes by either side at half time though Moyes didn’t leave it long before taking off the tightrope walking (as the referee clearly had his eye on him and the Liverpool players made sure he didn’t take it off him) Fellaini, replacing him with Dan Gosling. Pienaar was also replaced not too much longer after that, with Jack Rodwell also given an opportunity to shine. I though Jack had a splendid game in the middle whilst Gosling looked rather lost and nervous for much of his appearance (though thankfully not all of it!).
A real turning point in the game arrived when Lucas got himself sent off for a second booking (I never even knew he’d picked up a first booking) when he sent Lescott crashing to the ground as he led a breakaway. It must have been a fair one as not one Liverpool player contested the decision with the referee.
With Liverpool sitting deeper the onus was now on Everton to attack, and the breakthrough so nearly came when Osman got himself a great sight of goal and smashed it against the post from an Arteta pass I think. When moments like this come and go, you wonder if it's just not going to be your day and as we went into extra time you did wonder if penalties was to be the final outcome for this one.
We pressed well in the first half of extra time with a low Osman drive being saved by Reina, who was quick to follow up with both Goslings and Cahill’s follow ups as Liverpool survived our barrage. Torres, who’d been superbly contained all game by Lescott and Jagielka in particular, was subbed for Babbel. Everton made their final change at the start of the second period of extra time when pub footballer Andy van der Meyde made another of his little cameos, replacing Phil Neville.
With just a few minutes to go, you felt the game was doomed for penalties and another jammy Liverpool win but Van der Meyde (of all people) had other ideas. He put in a lovely deep cross that missed everyone except for the alert Dan Gosling. He took a few touches and I thought he’d missed his chance but instead he did the best thing possible, sorting his feet out quickly and clipping the ball beautifully into the corner. Get in there! Goodison went wild and I haven’t experienced anything quite so delirious for some time now. Dan Gosling… you legend!
Apparently someone chucked a plastic bottle at Cahill amidst all the mayhem which got a few of the players wound up but certainly didn’t stop the celebrations. Liverpool still had a few minutes to bite back but Everton were concentrated and repelled their attacks. When the whistle blew for full time Goodison just went wild. The celebrations spilled onto the streets.
What a night at Goodison Park. That’s just what the players deserve for some fantastic performances over the last five games. You’ve done us all proud lads now lets kick on from here and not get complacent as we’ve a bloody good run of fixtures coming up. Let's hope we can replicate this form in the shape of a trip to Wembley too.
Howard: Generally not much to do but distributed quite well. 6
Baines: Did a decent job of getting forward though did give the ball away a few times. 7
Lescott: Solid. 8
Jagielka: Absolutely world class. Made a supposedly outstanding player look very ordinary. My man of the Match. 10
Hibbert: Did well. Looking much more confident in attacking areas now. 8
Neville: Did a decent job of breaking things up in the middle and used the ball well in attacking areas. Certainly enjoyed this one judging on his reaction at the end. 8
Fellaini: Looked somewhat out of sorts though wasn’t really allowed to play by the referee. I don’t know if he was injured or just subbed anyway but either way he just wasn’t in the game much. 5
Arteta: Had a good presence in the middle. Not everything he did worked and he can sometimes be a little lightweight but boy do you miss him when he’s not there. 7
Osman: Ghosted around well. Should’ve scored with that chance but did a decent job nonetheless. 7
Pienaar: I can only assume he was injured as he was our best attacker before coming off. 8
Cahill: Put in his usual shift. 7
Gosling (for Fellaini): I thought he looked pretty nervous but there was nothing nervous about the way he took that goal. Will feel like king of the city tonight. Get in there lad! 8
Rodwell (for Pienaar): Christ he’s grown on me. I think he’s grown physically also as he seemed about 10ft tall. He looked very comfortable on the ball and used it very well. An excellent performance in what must have been a difficult game to get into. Well done. 8
Van der Meyde (for Neville): Tried but you know he’s nowhere near fit when he can’t run past a player who’s been on the pitch for 110 minutes when you’ve only been on for three. Nevertheless, he put in a good cross for the goal and let's face it, that was the only thing he was brought on to do. 7
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