Everton vs. Liverpool: A Toffees' Post-Match Thoughts
It was the third minute of four added for extra time, and Steven Gerrard stood over a dead ball. Liverpool had just been given a free kick, in what was likely going to be the last chance of the entire game.
I just knew.
Because we had fought back heroically; because we had, in my opinion, shaded what had been a fantastic spectacle for football supporters.
Because we're Everton.
Thus, I knew Liverpool would score. Somewhere, deep down, everyone in Royal Blue probably knew they would score.
And of course, they did. What's more, it was the completion of a hat-trick for Luis Suarez; his second of the season, in fact.
But then, something amazing happened. The goal was disallowed.
The decision went our way for once.
Justifiable? That, like everything else always is in this most insane of football matches, is open to debate. Certainly, he wasn't offside, which is why the goal was disallowed.
Because of that, it should officially have stood.
A startling presence all game, Suarez was in great form throughout; personal feelings aside, he is a majestic player when at his best. His best, of course, usually comes when he's been motivated by criticism.
Which is why I groaned when David Moyes made his (reasonable) comments about the Uruguayan's propensity to dive. It certainly stung when Suarez used the opportunity to celebrate in front of Moyes by diving in front of him.
Classy as ever.
I groaned more, though, when Phil Neville, usually a consummate professional, dived himself late in the first half, completely making a mockery of our manager's comment.
Thankfully he admitted his discrepancy post-match.
Still, it's not something I want to see at Everton. Or anywhere, for that matter.
When Suarez scored his first, I shook my head at what I felt was a huge stroke of misfortune; it deflected, after all, off of Leighton Baines. In fact, it might be classified as an own goal.
When Suarez scored again, I despaired. We certainly hadn't rolled over in terms of performance, but our defending was so abject I worried momentarily about a rout.
Who deserved to win?
Despair gave way to anger when I saw a replay of the free kick decision that led to the goal. Raheem Sterling clearly dived, despite the Sky pundits claiming he was clipped by Leon Osman.
He was. But then he took five more steps forward on the ball before falling. For me, that's a dive.
Why dwell, though?
To my relief, the deficit was reduced quickly as Osman volleyed in a decent shot past Brad Jones. His performance, and that of the aforementioned Neville, deserves praise.
They anchored the midfield well, something anyone who saw their performance against QPR last week would never have believed them capable of. But this was the Merseyside Derby, so it's not too surprising that they raised their game.
Our second, courtesy of some poor officiating (the throw in decision) and poor defending from Liverpool, was particularly satisfying. After the first from Osman, we had completely dominated, and it had felt like only a matter of time before we equalised.
Steven Naismith, no stranger to an intense derby atmosphere as a former Rangers stalwart, was the man who rifled it in.
Completely in the ascendancy, I didn't want the half to end. Kevin Mirallas in particular was outstanding; always asking for the ball, his turn of pace and close control had rookie Andre Wisdom bamboozled.
His injury just prior to the half time whistle was a key moment; in the second half, Everton continued to edge the match. But without the tricky Belgian, we did so with less incision.
It was in the second half that things turned somewhat uglier, both on and off the pitch.
Whoever threw a coin at Suarez is a disgrace; one, there's no place for that sort of thing in football; two, why waste money by throwing it at a multi-millionaire? Points for stupidity, mate.
More disgraceful though are the rumours of vile chanting ("murderers", for those that don't know) in the terraces. I hope this isn't true.
Again, these are only rumours. If they're not true, the person spreading them should be ashamed.
If it is, there's only one thing to say:
Anyone who did it is not an Everton fan. As far as I'm concerned, they're not even human.
Find them, shame them, and ban them.
On the pitch, things were also a lot more muted than they were in the frantic first half. Brendan Rodgers made two substitutions focused on settling the game, and they worked to an extent.
Man of the Match?
We edged about 30 minutes of the second half without getting in behind their defence. That half, full of robust battles in midfield and hopeful passing, resembled a typical Merseyside Derby much more than the first did.
Then, for the last 10, Liverpool asserted more pressure, and I genuinely worried we would fold. Our defending this season has been shocking at times, and our propensity to roll over against our fiercest rivals is well known.
Technically we did, even if the official spared us. His miscalculation, whether or not it led to a justifiable decision, got us out of jail.
That would be galling, if not for the grin that has threatened to split my face ever since I saw the linesman's flag raised while Gerrard slid across the turf in celebration.
Because in that moment, a lot of things flashed through my mind.
The Don Hutchinson goal; Jack Rodwell being sent off last season.
And with that in mind, I'm glad the decision was wrongly given for offside, rather than rightly given for the foul in the buildup.
It means that for once, it was the red half of Merseyside that got screwed over; for once, it is they who suffer the injustice of poor officiating.
Does that make me bitter? Maybe. They will certainly claim so.
But as far as I'm concerned, it is they who can enjoy being bitter for the next few months.
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