Liverpool 1 Everton 2
The summer of spend, spend, spend has given way to an autumn of pass, pass, pass at Anfield. If the 153rd League derby on Merseyside proved anything, it was that excess does not necessarily equate with success.
Whereas Liverpool stuck slavishly to a principle, like a high-powered version of Brian Clough's doomed Nottingham Forest of three years ago, Everton had a plan. Content to let Roy Evans's side weave interminable triangles in front of their massed ranks, Joe Royle's team simply waited for a mistake and struck on the break.
To make it work they relied on a quality which Liverpool, in the absence of Stan Collymore, do not possess: blistering pace. Fielding both Andrei Kanchelskis and Anders Limpar, thrilling if essentially maverick wingers, might have been deemed a risky strategy. Instead, they showed the home defence a clean pair of Achilles heels.
Patience is a virtue until it blurs into the over-elaboration with which Liverpool frustrated even a crowd steeped in the possession game. Ian Rush was not alone in yearning for the odd long ball afterwards. There are, however, other reasons why they have lost their last three games and beaten only Manchester City (twice) in the six home matches since late September.
Not only are one or two players, among them Rush and John Barnes, approaching or even past their sell-by date, but their system is failing them. One of the three central defenders, Phil Babb, is not disciplined enough to avoid being drawn out of position, a problem compounded by Steve Harkness's tendency to favour the attacking half of his wing-back role.
Paul Rideout thus had the freedom of the flank before crossing for Kanchelskis to score his second-ever headed goal. The Russian international drove another following a fine dribble and pass by his Swedish comrade, whose performance was otherwise remarkable for its economy. When his red-shirted equivalent, Steve McManaman, attempted a similar cross-field run, he was invariably crowded out.
McManaman seldom tried to go round the outside, and Liverpool eventually resorted to using Neil Ruddock in an attacking role older Evertonians refer to as "doing a Mick Lyons". Too late, there came a scrappy reply by Robbie Fowler, who had been selfless to a fault during early home ascendancy only to blow the best chance of an equaliser through greed.
The season could still bring Liverpool a trophy or two, yet after lavishing pounds 13m on Collymore and Jason McAteer there was no doubt which one Evans had in mind. Calling the present run "a big blip", he added: "You can't afford these spells if you want to win the championship." That prospect has now receded still further, with Newcastle already 12 points ahead.
Everton, who began a resurgence by beating Liverpool in Royle's first game a year ago, should resist reading too much into a deserved win. Kanchelskis's return gives them an extra dimension - as may Duncan Ferguson's - and prompted his manager to compare his ability to turn a big game with that of Les Ferdinand. This second successive victory owed as much to the biting tackles of John Ebbrell and Joe Parkinson in midfield.
After a bitter, barren derby in February, Evans took a sarcastic swipe at Goodison's "School of Soccer Science". On Saturday, weary of hearing his tongue-in-cheek "Dogs of War" remark turned back on Everton, Royle slipped in a wry aside about his "canines". Somewhere in between lies the truth. Dogs of Science, anyone?
Goals: Kanchelskis (53) 0-1; Kanchelskis (69) 0-2; Fowler (89) 1-2.
Liverpool (3-5-2): James; Wright, Scales, Babb (Thomas, 73); R Jones, McAteer, Barnes, McManaman, Harkness (Ruddock, 80); Rush, Fowler. Substitute not used: Warner (gk).
Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Jackson, Watson, Short, Ablett (Unsworth, 23); Kanchelskis, Parkinson, Ebbrell, Limpar; Stuart, Rideout. Substitutes not used: Grant, Amokachi.
Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).Reuse content