EVERTON 2 (Cahill 34, Arteta 50) – LIVERPOOL 0 It’s after matches like these, when the Old Lady has roared her team home, that the possibility of moving to a new stadium should be finally dispatched. In all of Everton’s glorious history stretching back through the eras of Ball, of Lawton and of Dean the one constant has been the famous Goodison roar from a crowd intimate to pitch and to players. If the memory of the intimidating atmosphere which last season helped drive the team to stunning victories over Chelsea, United and City was beginning to fade, then the Goodison hierarchy were here given a timely reminder. Move to what is laughingly described as a ‘state-of-the-art’ stadium and all this will go, sterilized away and lost for ever.
Tim Cahill is 30 years old. Many players peak sooner, some, usually defenders and keepers peak later, but the Australian has reached the apex of his playing career and is currently a fearsome combination of physical strength and footballing craft. Gorge your eyes on him, tell yourself to remember, remember, remember. Those of us lucky enough to have seen Alan Ball in his pomp always regret we did not see more of him, make not the same mistake with Tim Cahill. In years to come children and grandchildren, nephews and nieces and vague passing acquaintances will ask “what was he like?” On Sunday this player passed two landmarks, one mathematical the other mythical: His 34th minute strike was his fifth league derby goal, a post war record for a Blue, but it was his overall match performance, along with thirty or forty of equal intensity in recent years, that finally took him through the shimmering veil which separates the merely good, from the truly great. Though nominally operating in his accustomed role, playing just off the lone striker, Cahill was everywhere; at one moment auxiliary defender, the next supporting Arteta in midfield and then popping up to harass and to penetrate the Liverpool rearguard. It was all that we have come to expect from the Aussie, a performance of passion, intelligence and leadership.
Everton dominated from the start. Within eleven seconds a revitalized Yakubu flattened Krygiakos, inside ten minutes Carragher was barking a rebuke at Torres who angrily gesticulated in response, and just after the half-hour mark Everton were ahead. The excellent Seamus Coleman beat Lucas and Konchesky and crossed for Cahill to instantly crash the ball into the net and the Toffees had the lead their play warranted. Distin and Jagielka were solid and dominant, Arteta was running the game and Osman was tackling, harrying and working so hard that the absence of Pienaar went unnoticed. Appropriately it was Arteta, scoring his first derby goal, who delivered the coup de grace shortly after the break. Kyrgiakos was first to a Baines corner but his header only found the Basque on the edge of the area – Arteta controlled the dropping ball before lashing a powerful swerving shot past Reina into the Park End goal.
To be sure from this point the Reds dominated possession, but carved out only one clear-cut chance, when the superb Sylvain Distin just managed to get to a through ball ahead of Ngog and block it away for a corner. During our slow start to the season some of the manager’s substitutions have been widely criticised, but his decision in the seventy fourth minute to send on Jermaine Beckford for the injured Arteta and go to 4-4-2 was spot on; Beckford saw plenty of the ball, pressurized the Liverpool back four and, if he had been a little more composed when clear through, might have added a third as the Reds pushed forward.
Everton’s season is now finally under way, but there is ground to be made up. Fellaini faces a lengthy layoff, but Rodwell, Pienaar and Saha will soon be ready to rejoin the fray. Yakubu is back, almost reborn; he looked strong as well as physically and mentally sharp, the goals will come. Next Saturday Spurs better be on their guard, they have a tough game in prospect.
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Konchesky; Meireles, Lucas (Ngog 71); Maxi (Jovanovic 84), Gerrard ©, Cole (Babel 79): Torres
Subs not used: Jones, Aurelio, Spearing, Kelly
EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neville ©, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Heitinga (Hibbert 72), Coleman, Arteta (Beckford 74), Osman (Bilyaletdinov 46); Cahill; Yakubu
Subs not used: Mucha, Gueye, Baxter, Mustafi
Referee: Howard Webb