Liverpool-Everton: Reds Triumph in Spite of Rafa

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Liverpool-Everton: Reds Triumph in Spite of Rafa

I write this article outside what would normally be a rather quaint pub in the beautiful Paris suburb of Bercy, some 13 kilometres south of La Stade de France—where England will contest tonight’s Rugby World Cup Final against South Africa.

At the moment, I've just enjoyed the rather surreal experience of watching the Merseyside Derby some 1,000 kilometres away from L4—where Liverpool have walked away with a highly controversial victory.

Four penalties and two red cards—normal service resumed on Derby day!

It's no secret that I've implored Liverpool to win "ugly" in recent weeks—and that's exactly what they did today. The win was essential after the Reds' recent run of disappointing results.

Everton were the busier side in the first half, pushing Liverpool back without necessarily creating any real chances.  Liverpool started brightly, but they were unable to maintain any pressure with Dirk Kuyt isolated up front whilst Voronin laboured out of position on the right side.

The home team deservedly led at the break after an own goal by Sami Hyppia.

I mentioned in this space a few weeks ago that the Finn was struggling, and I'm afraid to say today was no different.

You would have expected Benitez to make changes after so tepid a first-half performance, but the second period started off just as the first had ended.

The tone changed, though, when a Liverpool counter-attack from an Everton corner left Steven Gerrard in the clear—where he was pulled down by Tony Hibbert just inside the area.

Referee Mark Clattenberg showed Hibbert the red card with some prompting from the Liverpool captain, this on a day when Liverpool’s back-chat—from Carragher in particular—made a mockery of those Liverpool fans who have been so quick to condemn the behaviour of other clubs.

Kuyt slotted home the ensuing penalty, which should have given Liverpool all the momentum they needed.

But, as is so often the case, Benitez’s conservatism nearly cost his club.

Even against 10 men—in a game the Reds absolutely needed to win—Rafa employed two defensive midfielders. Not exactly the work of a manager intent on winning a championship.

Everton nearly earned a penalty of their own when Steve Finnan seemed to pull the shirt of Joleon Lescott, but Clattenberg waved the protests away. Benitez responded by bringing on Ryan Babel for Yossi Benayoun, who had been Liverpool’s most creative player.

The move was a stunning one—and the Liverpool faithful could only have been more perplexed by the manger's subsequent decision to replace Gerrard with Lucas, the young Brazilian.

In the end, though, the club survived these bizarre substitutions.

In injury time, a shot from Lucas off a Pennant cross was acrobatically saved on the line by left back Phil Neville—an automatic red card and another penalty for Liverpool.

Kuyt converted again to seemingly seal the points for the Reds—but Everton rallied to create the game’s biggest controversy, when Lescott was pulled down by Carragher in the waning seconds.

To the disbelief of the home crowd, Clattenberg again denied the protests...and promptly blew the whistle to end proceedings.

Drama aside, Everton have again been denied by the "Big Four" at home, and Liverpool’s disjointed form continues—albeit with three vital points.

All told, it wasn't a glorious day for Liverpool Football Club. The churlish behaviour of a senior player and the bizarre decisions of their manager were nothing to smile about.

The club won, but it was in spite of—not because of—their best efforts.

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