A must-win derby, Everton slipping to 16th place before the kick-off. Jo was surprisingly chosen by David Moyes to lead the line.... Hibbert reinstated at right back... Heitinga in midfield... Saha rested on the bench with a slight strain.
A scrappy, frenetic start saw Liverpool probing deeper and getting closer, an opening coming when Mascherano was not closed down and he decided to have a pop on 12 mins. Yobo stuck out a foot to deflect it horribly past Howard for a flukey opening goal.
Everton did get forward and a ball across the area was headed on to Bily wide open at the far post but it was too fast and too difficult for him to convert.
Everton pressed with greater conviction toward the half-hour, a long ball from Hibbert allowed Fellaini to head on for Jo but that ball was also too difficult to convert. Jo scored on a good ball from Pienaar but he was declared offside.
Insua nearly scored with a powerful header that was fortunately straight at Howard, forcing a dramatic point-blank save. Jo scored again off a corner, but he was obviously offside.
Everton pushed harder after the break, and got the crowd behind them, but the guile needed on the final ball was lacking.
Pienaar got in a shot that was again straight at Reina, who dropped it a foot in front of the line. but was able to recover. Fellaini's elbows were flying and in one jump for the ball, he caught Lucas and drew blood.
Past the hour and Moyes brought on Saha for Jo, who had struggled to really make an impact, getting caught offside or too easily dispossessed. But really, the player who needed replacing was Heitinga.
A great low, fast free-kick from Pienaar was clipped in by Cahill forcing a desperate save from Reina, Fellaini following it up a little late could only smash it off the keeper's body and away for a corner.
With the game drifting away from Everton despite a spirited effort in the second half, Moyes decided to bring on Yakubu for Cahill but could not make the change before a dreadful sequence of defending from Yobo then Hibbert let Riera shoot at Howard the block bouncing kindly to Kyut and into the net for a second flukey goal that would seal the game.
Heitinga was finally booked, the only yellow card of the game from Alan Wiley, and will now miss the Spurs game. Everton's performance in terms of spirit was better but the application of footballing skills and creativity needed at this level was still sadly lacking.
It's been billed in some quarters as the "Miseryside" derby, so low is the ebb at which both Everton and Liverpool find themselves going into this, their first meeting of the season.
Everton have won just once in their last 10 games in all competitions and reached what we can only hope was the season's nadir at the KC Stadium on Wednesday night. Liverpool, of whom much more is expected, have managed just one more victory from the same number of matches and they've lost their place in the Champions League, on which so much of their revenue relies — though thanks to one of the most abhorrent and unjust regulations, they now get to parachute into the last 32 of the Europa League.
Both sides might feel it would be an ideal time to play the other in a Mersey derby but the rhetoric from both camps this week has been defiant and galvanising... so, while there could well be plenty of commitment, it's unlikely to be pleasing on the eye. But when is it ever?
Commitment will be the watchword for the Goodison faithful this Sunday after that horrendous first-half display against Hull in midweek. 3-0 down after just 28 minutes, the Blues did at least regain some respect in the second half by pulling two goals back but could not find an equaliser. Whether what must have been a withering half-time dressing down by David Moyes proves to be this season's watershed remains to be seen but there's no question that victory over Liverpool would provide a powerful shot in the arm.
With the return to action of Steven Pienaar and the availability again of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Marouane Fellaini, both of whom are eligible following suspensions, Moyes was no doubt hoping for a selection dilemma this weekend but injuries to Louis Saha (calf) and Jack Rodwell (groin) mean that he could be down two key players as he prepares his teamsheet.
Defensively, he has few options except, perhaps, to bring Tony Hibbert back in at right back, particularly given his derby experience and local pedigree, not to mention the fact that Lucas Neill did not cover himself in glory against Hull.
Up front, if he decides not risk Saha, Yakubu will likely get the nod at the spearhead of a familiar 4-4-1-1 formation, with Tim Cahill potentially freed up to play in the hole and four from Pienaar, Bilyaletdinov, Fellaini, Rodwell and John Heitinga across the middle.
That line-up, while still crying out for Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka, ought to be strong enough to give Liverpool a damn good game, but they will have to surmount two obstacles — firstly, the mental one of a lack of confidence and self-belief, and, secondly, the worrying defensive frailty that has crept into the side in recent weeks. Sylvain Distin in particular seems to be going through a bad spell and with no other options available to the manager, it's something the Frenchman is going to have to sort out quickly.
Liverpool's big selection talking point is, of course, the fitness of Fernando Torres and he is scheduled for a late fitness test just days after reportedly being ruled out for the weekend. It may be that the Spaniard has little chance of playing and is therefore just mind games from Rafael Benitez but even if he does get the OK to play, the Blues will be hoping that he is sufficiently short of fitness and sharpness to be ineffective on the day.
Ultimately, the derby should require no geeing up for; it's always a massive game but on this occasion the stakes are very high for both clubs. A win for Everton would not only push them away from the relegation zone and all the psychological danger that lurks in that region of the table but also bring them closer to those coveted European places.
Time for those players who let the traveling fans down so badly in midweek to stand up and be counted.
May appear here later
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2009-10 Reports Index|
|When Skies Are Grey||Report|
|Everton fans' reports|
|Other media reports|
|4 the Game||Report|
|Yobo (86' Neill)|
|Cahill (82' Yakubu)|
|Jo (67' Saha)|
|Subs not used|
|Aurelio (78' Riera)|
|Ngog (75' Benayoun)|
|Subs not used|
|Premier League Scores|
|Saturday 28 November 2009|
|Man City||1-1||Hull City|
|Sunday 29 November 2009|
|Premier League Table|
|After 29 Nov 2009|