Liverpool vs. Everton: Ranking the Reds Players in FA Cup Semifinal Win
Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish marched on to their second domestic cup final of the season with another Andy Carroll late showing enough to record a 2-1 win over neighbours Everton at Wembley in the FA Cup semifinal.
The Reds started the better side and went to close through Jay Spearing and Martin Skrtel, before a defensive mix-up at the other end saw Jamie Carragher clear the ball against Tim Cahill, who ricocheted the ball on to his forward Nikica Jelavic to finish calmly and put Everton ahead.
For the remainder of the first half, it was a largely subdued affair with neither side really in control and the blue half of the city happy to sit back and soak up pressure.
After the break, Liverpool came out all guns blazing and should have been level within minutes, Andy Carroll heading Stewart Downing's header wide from close range.
A second defensive error, this time a short back-pass from Sylvain Distin, allowed Luis Suarez to equalise for Liverpool with half an hour remaining.
And it was left to Andy Carroll to head home his second late winner in a week, nodding in Craig Bellamy's free kick with just four minutes left on the clock to send Liverpool to the final and a third Wembley date of the season.
Here are the player ratings from the semifinal match.
Goalkeeper: Brad Jones
Thrust into the Wembley spotlight well over a year after his last start for Liverpool, Brad Jones coped well with the occasion.
He could do nothing about the goal, a first-time finish from close range by Nikica Jelavic, and he dealt well with all high balls into the box, coming to the edge of his area to claim crosses or through balls.
His one flappy moment came in the second half, as he failed to reach a free kick swung across and was fortunate that Martin Skrtel could clear behind him.
Other than that, he was largely untroubled, with Everton not managing to create any clear chances in the second half to test Liverpool's third-choice 'keeper.
A big day for Brad Jones given what he has been through, and he came up trumps for Liverpool.
Brad Jones: 7 / 10
Full-Backs: Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger
Daniel Agger came in at left-back for the Reds as Jose Enrique was left on the bench following his lowered form of late.
Glen Johnson reverted to right-back, as Jon Flanagan also came out of the side.
Johnson played well for much of the game, though it was apparent from his touch that he was a little rusty, having not played much football of late—he got forward well several times, but his crosses were over-hit or his dribbles overrun.
It was still good for the English full-back to return, and Liverpool benefited from having both him and the Dane back in the side.
On the left, Agger wasn't able to get forward as much as he would have liked, but he was important in defending set pieces as an extra central player and also supported well from deep areas.
Involved in the mix-up that led to the Everton goal, Agger shouldn't have left the ball to bounce in the box, but ultimately he and the rest of the defenders kept Everton at bay for the whole second half.
Glen Johnson: 7 / 10
Daniel Agger: 7 / 10
Central Defenders: Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel
Despite the return of Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher continued as the central defensive pairing for Liverpool.
Skrtel was his usual beastly self, dominating attackers in the air and on the ground, but he also was a little over-exuberant at times, jumping over people to win headers that didn't need to be won and conceding free kicks.
Ultimately, he kept Jelavic extremely quiet aside from the goal which he could do nothing about, and the lack of real tests that Brad Jones had to go through is testament to the way Skrtel and the team defended.
Jamie Carragher will be severely disappointed that his error led to the Everton goal, and hugely relieved that his team won anyway.
His critics will point again to his age and say he shouldn't be in the team anymore, but the fact is he hasn't left—he's Liverpool's third-choice defender now.
Another win against Everton will be another milestone for the defender who is now just a handful of games shy of 700 Liverpool appearances.
Whether he will still be in the side come the end of the season and the FA Cup final itself—after being on the bench for the Carling Cup final—remains to be seen.
Jamie Carragher: 7 / 10
Martin Skrtel: 8 / 10
Central Midfielders: Jay Spearing and Steven Gerrard
Jay Spearing returned to the starting 11 to pair with Steven Gerrard in the centre of Liverpool's midfield, with Jonjo Shelvey dropping to the bench.
Spearing put in a great shift, and though his positional and match-dominating attributes may not be as highly developed as Lucas Leiva's, he nonetheless was never beaten or overrun in the centre of the park by the utterly anonymous Darron Gibson or the larger-than-life Marouane Fellaini.
Wirral-born Spearing got through his usual share of tough challenges and passed the ball simply, allowing Gerrard to break forward when he could and recycling the ball quickly in the second half as the Reds raised the tempo of their game.
Gerrard didn't have a direct impact on the score sheet, but he was an instrumental player in the Reds wresting back control of the game, driving forward and looking to connect with his teammates around the edge of the box.
His burst onto the ball won the free kick on the left, which led to Andy Carroll's match-winning goal, and he was full of running at both ends of the pitch.
A good captain's performance.
Jay Spearing: 7 / 10
Steven Gerrard: 8 / 10
Wingers: Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing
Jordan Henderson started right side and Stewart Downing left for Liverpool, with both players switching shortly before halftime.
Both put in hard-working performances on the flanks, though Downing was certainly the more adventurous of the two.
Somewhat predictably, both of these players were the ones substituted by the Reds during the second half.
Henderson got through a good amount of tracking back in the first half, especially at important times on the break for Everton, but he was unable to provide a cutting edge in the final third on the attack.
He looked much more sure in the centre of the park in recent games rather than out on the flank, but he was better against the Blues than in previous matches.
He lost his head a little after halftime, when he was booked and then spoken to again by the referee within a short space of time, and Kenny Dalglish was perhaps wise to remove him when he did.
Downing was a real threat at times for the Reds down the flank, blazing past Leighton Baines down the right a number of times and sending over a few very dangerous-looking crosses.
He was not happy to have been withdrawn with the scores level, but his replacement, Craig Bellamy, set up the winning goal—can't argue with that.
Jordan Henderson: 6 / 10
Stewart Downing: 7 / 10
Forwards: Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez
In a repeat of the Goodison Park fixture earlier in the season, it was Liverpool's £60 million strike duo who scored the goals to give the Reds victory over the Blues.
Luis Suarez put in an exceptionally strong-willed performance, complete with hurly-burly rugby tackles on Johnny Heitinga, approximately 15 slips on the Wembley turf and a sublimely taken outside-of-the-boot finish to equalise.
He ran Everton really ragged in the second half, not so much with his dribbles as is his usual modus operandi but more with his movement off the ball from side to side, one flank to the other, in behind the full-backs to link with the wide men and then buzzing around the penalty area, too.
His goal was smartly taken, and he almost set up Maxi Rodriguez for a third, too.
Andy Carroll, fresh from scoring an injury-time winner at Blackburn in midweek, came up with the goods at Wembley again to head home the winner at a relatively early 86 minutes this time.
He had more shots than anyone else on the pitch during the game, and his goal was just reward for continuing to be happy to take efforts on and for getting in the right places.
His all-around game was much better again, and his shimmy, turn and shoot from the edge of the area—just wide of Howard's post—would have been a worthy strike to win a semifinal with.
Admittedly, a similar effort five minutes later was rather woeful, as was his firm header at the far post just moments into the second half, but this was a big performance from Carroll, and both he and Kenny Dalglish will hope that his two goals in two games will be the spur he has needed to push himself on to further glories with Liverpool.
Andy Carroll: 8 / 10
Luis Suarez: 8 / 10 Man of the Match
Subsitutes: Maxi Rodriguez and Craig Bellamy
Kenny Dalglish sent on two substitutes during the second half for Liverpool—Maxi Rodriguez and Craig Bellamy in place of Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing.
Both had telling moments of impact.
Bellamy sent over the free kick from which Andy Carroll headed in the winning goal, while Maxi Rodriguez could have wrapped things up just minutes later when he hit the post from close range.
Dalglish left it a little late in the game to introduce Bellamy, presumably to match his pace and movement against a more tired Everton defence, and in the end it paid dividends, as the Welshman caused panic with one run straight away, before his assist.
Maxi Rodriguez: 6 / 10
Craig Bellamy: 7 / 10
Unused subs: Peter Gulacsi, Jose Enrique, Dirk Kuyt, Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Kelly.