It’s almost that time of year again. The time of year that causes the city of Liverpool to stand still. The time of year that sees both sets of Merseyside supporters combine in delirious excitement for the game that they have been longing for ever since the fixture list was released. The time of year in which 100% commitment from the players has to be a given. It’s nearly time.
The Merseyside Derby is a game for the fans. The victorious supporters have the luxury of gloating and taunting their neighbours until the teams meet again and the Premier League table becomes somewhat irrelevant for 90 minutes. The feeling of defeating the team of your relatives’ choice outweighs the relief of three points. Let’s face it, it’s rivalries that make football special and there is no greater rivalry than the Merseyside Derby.
To build up to the big game, I am going to take a stroll down memory lane and look back at my personal top five Merseyside Derby’s.
5. Everton 0-2 Liverpool. September 2008. (Torres x2)
At number five I have chosen a relatively comfortable victory for the Reds over their rivals. This was a game in a season where Liverpool were fighting it out for the championship with Manchester United. What makes this game special for me was the apparent ease in which Liverpool won it. They dominated from the start to finish. With a spine of Reina, Carragher, Mascherano, Alonso, Gerrard and Torres, Everton couldn’t come close. Fernando Torres, arguably Europe’s finest striker at the time, netted twice in the space of three minutes to secure the points for the Reds. In this typically fierce Merseyside Derby ,the frustration got the better of Tim Cahill when he was sent off for a dreadful tackle on Xabi Alonso. This match was an emphatic statement of Liverpool’s title credentials in that particular season.
4. Liverpool 3-0 Everton. March 2012. (Gerrard x3)
My choice at number four is a special one. A Scouse Derby in which a Scouser grabbed all the headlines. This game was particularly memorable for me because my personal football hero Steven Gerrard showcased his undoubted class on the Merseyside stage. It was a time when people were beginning to question the Liverpool skipper’s capabilities to still be a ‘top player’ (where have we heard that before?) and he disproved his critics not once, not twice, but on three occasions. With the Premier League being over at this stage of the season for Liverpool, a hat-trick from their captain and an assertive victory over Everton gave them as much solace that was virtually possible. This game will be forever remembered as the ‘Stevie G Derby’.
3. Liverpool 2-1 Everton. April 2012. (Suarez, Carroll)
A month after Liverpool defeated Everton with ease at Anfield, the sides met again at Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final tie. With the Blues vying for blood after their embarrassment a month before, Liverpool knew that this was never going to be an easy task to overcome. Everton went ahead in the first half through Nikica Jelavic and took this lead into the second half until Luis Suarez took advantage of a Sylvan Distin error to level the game. With only a couple of minutes to go , Liverpool were awarded a free-kick. Craig Bellamy swung it in and the much maligned Andy Carroll secured Liverpool a place in the final with a great header. This was the final nail in the coffin for Everton as regards Merseyside Derby’s in this particular season. Whereas Liverpool were concerned, this topped off a triple header of victories over Everton in this season and gave them infinite bragging rights.
2. Liverpool 2-2 Everton. January 2011. (Meireles, Kuyt, Beckford, Distin)
Now some might jump out of their seats and shout ‘HOW COULD YOU HAVE A DRAW AT NUMBER TWO?’. Well, this game marked the Anfield return of King Kenny Dalglish to the Liverpool helm. For the previous six months, the Reds had been under the control of Roy Hodgson who simply wasn’t cut out for a club of Liverpool’s stature and the club was deteriorating quickly. Hope had almost vanished from the club after a series of shocking performances and results, a trait in which Liverpool had prided itself on. Nevertheless, the morale boost that Dalglish brought back lifted the club massively. Anfield was rocking on derby day this year. The Scot’s name was continuously chanted passionately by the Kop faithful. This was the first time in months that the Liverpool players had shown some real fight for their fans. Kopites noticed this and realised from this result forward that better days were on the horizon. This game is a special result for me because it was a positive stepping stone in the club’s progress.
1. Everton 1-2 Liverpool. October 2007. (Kuyt x2, Hyypia o.g)
This one was as dramatic as Merseyside Derby’s come. A match, admittedly, where Liverpool were fortunate to come away with the three points. Everton went ahead through a Sami Hyypia own goal. It was deserved as the Blues had been the superior side in the first forty-five minutes. Their delirium was short-lived however as Gerrard was brought down in the penalty area by Tony Hibbert who was then shown a red card under controversial circumstances. Mark Clattenburg appeared to be reaching for a yellow card then proceeded to give red after a small word with the Liverpool skipper. A penalty was awarded which Dirk Kuyt duly converted to make it all square. Everton were then reduced to nine men when former Manchester United man Phil Neville deliberately handled the ball in the penalty area, stopping a certain goal from Lucas Leiva. Another penalty was awarded which led to another goal for Dirk Kuyt. In the dying minutes, Jamie Carragher blatantly fouled Joleon Lescott in the box only for the referee to dismiss Everton’s clamouring for a spot kick which angers the home fans who already felt annoyed that Dirk Kuyt was still on the pith after an early two footed lunge. A chorus of boo’s rang out at Goodison Park when the final whistle blew. The Everton fans, players and manager were all incensed and for me, this made it all the sweeter. To use a cliché, the icing was put on top of the cake when former Blue’s fan Carragher ran down, arms high above his head, to celebrate with the ecstatic Red’s supporters. Priceless.
So those were my top five Merseyside Derby’s. Hopefully we will have more days of celebration in the not too distant future. Here’s to next week!
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