Two sent off as Reds triumph
By Ben Blackmore. Last Updated: 28/12/05 10:00pm
The pressure continues to build on David Moyes and his Everton side after they suffered derby heartbreak as Liverpool outclassed them to triumph 3-1 at Goodison Park.
Just one year ago, Rafael Benitez was the butt of all jokes on the blue half of Merseyside, as The Toffees dubbed the Spaniard 'Rafa Beneath us'. 12 months on, the former Valencia boss is the undoubted curse of those same fans, after producing a Liverpool team that was just too professional for their local counterparts.
Goals from Peter Crouch, Steven Gerrard and Djibril Cisse ensured a ninth consecutive Premiership win for The Reds, whilst a James Beattie strike rewarded Everton for their efforts in a game that saw Phil Neville and Mikel Arteta sent off.
A typically frenetic start saw Everton flex their muscles at the set-piece, bombarding Liverpool with plenty of early long-throws, which resulted with Jose Reina being forced into an uncomfortable save from a speculative Neville effort.
The visitors had struggled to put a string of passes together in the opening period as the tackles flew in, but after 10 minutes the forward trio of Gerrard, Crouch, and Cisse combined to devastating effect.
Sprung onto the counter attack by Reina, Cisse cleverly cushioned the ball for his skipper to nod through for the in-form Crouch, who calmly rounded Nigel Martyn for his second goal in three days.
Everton were visibly rocked by the setback, and thoughts immediately turned to the two recent 4-0 collapses at the hands of Bolton and Aston Villa. Within eight minutes, those fears were confirmed as Gerrard made it two.
Steve Finnan was allowed the freedom of the right flank to pick out a cross, and after the hosts cleared from the initial threat of Crouch, Gerrard crashed a thumping drive that deflected off the back of the unlucky Joseph Yobo.
Liverpool's front pairing were causing their neighbours no end of problems, and they soon combined again for Cisse to volley narrowly over the bar.
Everton's main threat lay on the shoulders of the talented Arteta, and he twice came close to helping his side back into the game as the match took on a surprisingly open complexion.
First it was Kevin Kilbane who met a hanging Arteta cross to force Finnan into a fine block, and then, from the resulting corner, the Spaniard found Yobo who headed over when he should have done better.
Everton had certainly managed to halt the storm, and they were soon ruing a hugely controversial decision, after Beattie's header was ruled out as Tim Cahill's centre was already deemed to have crossed the line.
However, the big striker was not made to wait long for his fifth goal of the season, as the home side finally ended their rivals' long stretch without conceding.
Once again it was Arteta who provided the troubling cross, and after the good work of Kilbane and Simon Davies, Beattie applied the finishing glance to awaken the home support.
The Toffees were greeted by a fiery roar from their followers as they returned for the second half, but their hopes of a dream comeback were dashed inside two minutes as Cisse reminded Benitez of his qualities.
Neville was the guilty man for Everton as his wayward pass allowed The Reds to break down the left, and the Frenchman beat David Weir before guiding a delicious side-footed finish wide of a helpless Martyn.
The Goodison Park faithful fell flat as the prospect of derby defeat began to become a reality, and it was Liverpool who grew in stature as Gerrard led his side in typically determined fashion.
Moyes looked furious with the way his men had surrendered their momentum so soon after the interval, and he turned to the much-improved James McFadden for inspiration.
However, Liverpool began to call on the experience that comes with winning the UEFA Champions League, and they managed to slow the tempo of the game whilst looking for Cisse on the break.
After the Boxing Day disaster at Villa Park, Moyes certainly could not fault his players' effort, but the aim of using Neville to shackle Gerrard was not working, and the Liverpool captain was inches away from a stunning goal as his 25-yard rocket skimmed the upright.
The former Manchester United man had endured a testing evening, and it came to a premature end with 20 minutes remaining, as referee Graham Poll showed a second yellow for a trip on Mohamed Sissoko.
To their credit, the home side kept attempting to inject some forward momentum, and they could have given themselves hope with eight minutes left on the clock, but Beattie blasted over with the goal at his mercy.
More misery was to follow for The Toffees as the game petered out late on, and Arteta was harshly sent off for a second bookable offence, as Liverpool moved two points closer to Manchester United.
Click here for Everton v Liverpool player ratings.
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