Collymore helps banish Reds' blues

Derby County 0 Liverpool 1 Collymore 75 Attendance: 18,102
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The Independent Online
Stan Collymore's value to Liverpool has fluctuated throughout his season and a half at the club, but he came up with a goal that was the equivalent of precious metal yesterday. A fiercely fought match, played in an increasingly rancorous atmosphere, could easily have slipped away from Liverpool before the reduction of Derby to 10 men early in the second half created the conditions for them to steal a victory that moved them from third up to second in the Premiership, a point behind the leaders Manchester United.

It was just the result Liverpool needed after the trauma that was Stamford Bridge last week, but there were enough reminders of that match, particularly when Derby were having a real go in the first half, to suggest that winning the title will require more authorititive defending than they are at present able to muster. As against Chelsea, the problem was one of being pinned too deep in their own half by a team intent on harrying the back line at every opportunity. And, until Collymore struck 15 minutes from the end, Liverpool had hardly created a chance.

For Derby, events were coloured by the sending-off of Darryl Powell in the 47th minute, for a late and dangerous tackle on Liverpool's Norwegian defender, Bjorn Tore Kvarme. The hostility of the home crowd's reaction to what seemed a perfectly reasonable decision on referee Peter Jones's part did themselves no credit and their team no favours.

While emotions got the better of the home camp, Liverpool retained their composure to take control of the match for the first time, and they made it count. Derby have now picked up four points from nine games in a win- less run that stretches back to the end of November.

With Derby's form player, the Dutchman Robin van Der Laan, making regular incursions from midfield, Dean Sturridge's pace embarrassing Mark Wright, and Lee Carsley, the right wing-back, exploiting space behind the defence, Liverpool had an uncomfortable first half in which only an angled cross- shot by Collymore hinted at a goal.

The incident that changed the the match occurred when Kvarme was teeing the ball up to clear it from midway inside his own half. Powell had no realistic chance of dispossessing him, but he went in late and caught him a crack on the leg which was audible at the back of the main stand. Kvarme went down in agony, but got up, seemed to run the injury off, and came back on before being replaced by Michael Thomas 10 minutes later.

Jim Smith, the Derby manager's unworthy interpretation was that he didn't think the referee even saw the incident and that there "might have been a dive''. It certainly knocked Derby out of their stride, and when Collymore - collecting a pass from Robbie Fowler - worked some space just inside the area, his left-foot shot was so good it did not even give the Derby goalkeeper Russell Hoult the chance to dive.