Football: Fowler steps out of line again

Liverpool striker risks further FA wrath after taunting fans with apparent imitation of drug-taking

Liverpool 3 Everton 2 Fowler pen 15, 21, Berger 82 Dacourt 1, Jeffers 84 Half-time: 2-1 Attendance: 44,852

THE SKY was blue; increasingly, during a climax of captivating desperation so was the air in the vicinity of the Everton bench. But, ultimately, the latest pride and pre-eminence on Merseyside was wrapped with red ribbons, applied and knotted principally by Robbie Fowler - a genuine scouser at his cheeky and irreverent best and worst.

Liverpool's nine-match win-less sequence in this most parochial passion play is ended, but Fowler's disciplinary problems may not be. His two goals gratified a raucous Kop; but his reaction to the first - at best - betrayed the apparent insensitivity his critics find so often.

Fowler's contentious moment occurred after 15 furious minutes. Paul Ince had gone to ground in a challenge with Marco Materazzi. The referee David Elleray, who had already shown two yellow cards in an impossibly frenetic opening, awarded a penalty. Fowler scored, celebrated uncompromisingly in front of the Everton supporters, then got down on his hands and knees and seemingly applied his nose to the white line marking the penalty area.

To all the world it seemed that Fowler was responding to the unfounded rumours of drug-taking which have found receptive ears among Everton fans - and provided them with much ammunition for taunting the striker - by mimicking the action of snorting.

Afterwards, however, the official line was that - far from pretending to be a "smack-head" - Fowler was, at worst, being a "bonehead". His manager, Gerard Houllier, explained that "It was just a joke", dating back to the Metz career of the Cameroon international Rigobert Song. Apparently, during his time in France, Song and his colleagues were in the habit of pretending to eat grass to celebrate a goal. Song had demonstrated the idea in training; Fowler had found it amusing and given the "grass habit" a try.

Nor, according to Houllier, was anyone offended by it. He had spoken to Elleray who saw nothing untoward and would be making no report.

The police, however, will be. A spokesman for Merseyside police said officers were investigating. He said: "Following a complaint from a member of the public the matter will be investigated and match officials will be spoken to by officers." This is not good news for Fowler, who already has a date with the FA's disciplinarians regarding the Graeme Le Saux affair this Friday, his 24th birthday.

Press photographs might yet become exhibits in any wider inquiry into the striker's taunting antics. But these should not detract from what was an absolutely belting game of football. Colourful and cacophonous, it gave the lie to any notion that during a period of underachievement on Merseyside, this very special occasion is diminished.

In fact, quite the opposite. The less relevance it has on a wider national stage, the more intimately the rivalry is felt in this city. Anyway, it was relevant for Everton, very relevant. They need points now if this twice-yearly jamboree is to be enjoyed into a 38th successive season.

They began with the thrust and vigour of a team hell-bent on gleaning those points at a venue where - in the minds of their fans - they practically count double. Only 40 frantic, wild-tackling seconds had passed when the ball fell teasingly to Olivier Dacourt on the edge of the penalty area. He swung with his left foot and, having made the purest connection, benefited from the kindest deflection to leave David James helpless.

The blue touchpaper was lit; but the Reds were more visibly ignited by it. Ince cried in vain for one penalty and - before he was awarded another - Song headed wide. Then, Fowler took centre stage. His penalty was perfection and his instinct unerring when, five minutes later, Steve McManaman flicked on Patrik Berger's corner inside the box, and Fowler's head established the lead.

McManaman had won that corner, sharpening the fingertips of the Everton goalkeeper Thomas Myrhe with a crafty, dipping volley. His 19th meeting with Everton is destined, of course, to be the last and, if he brings the same energy and invention to Real's meetings with Atletico, McManaman will prosper in Madrid.

After a necessarily less eventful opening to the second half, Liverpool seemed to have settled the contest when Berger reacted sharply to Jamie Redknapp's half-cleared corner and doubled the lead with a low volley. However, Everton were still not done. A swivelling half-volley from Francis Jeffers immediately silenced the taunts of "going down".

In the ensuing panic, Liverpool were hideously close to being breached again, but Paul Gerrard scraped the ball away from his line with Campbell closing in and blocked Cadamarteri's shot with James stranded out of his box.

Furthermore, Everton had two desperate penalty claims waved away - "It's just like Celtic Park; you get nothing there either," smiled their former Rangers manager Walter Smith.

So, perhaps Everton will go down now. If they do, Liverpool will be the first to bemoan the absence of this very special fixture.

LIFE AND STRIFE OF ROBBIE FOWLER

1975: Born Toxteth, Liverpool, 9 April.

1986: Plays for Liverpool as an 11-year-old schoolboy.

1993: Plays for England in the Uefa Youth Cup. Makes League debut. Scores all five goals in 5-0 victory over Fulham in Coca-Cola Cup.

1995: Voted PFA Young Player of the Year. Scores 31 goals for Liverpool. Suffers nose injury in bust-up with Neil Ruddock on return flight from Russia.

1996: Makes full England debut as a substitute. Voted PFA Young Player of the Year for a second successive season. Scores 35 goals in 53 appearances.

1997: Praised for sportsmanlike gesture when he tries to persuade referee Gerald Ashby not to award penalty when felled by Arsenal's David Seaman.

Following day fined pounds 900 for wearing T-shirt supporting striking Liverpool dockers. Sent off with David Unsworth after clash during Merseyside derby.

1998: Suffers serious knee injury in challenge with Everton keeper Thomas Myhre and misses rest of the season and World Cup.

1999: Involved in running feud with Graeme Le Saux in defeat at Chelsea. Le Saux strikes Fowler for obscene gestures. FA charge both with misconduct.

Le Saux sends written apology to Fowler, and the two make peace.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup