Everton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
GREAT CLUBS fallen on comparatively hard times squabbling among themselves. In theory, that was all the 148th Merseyside derby was about, but the pride and passion before the largest crowd of the season in the Premier League (44,619) was as powerful as ever, and as the beaten manager, Howard Kendall, said: 'It could have been another 4-4.' More likely 7-2 on chances to Liverpool, who finally took the last one thanks to Ronny Rosenthal in the final minute.
Though neither club is exactly destitute, and one or two recent performances have lifted the spirits a fraction for both, the curiosity value of yesterday's meeting was that it still had more to do with clinging to a lifeline than grabbing more glory. After the 3-0 victory over Nottingham Forest, Kendall was still far from free of concern. 'Safe, oh no we're not.' Safety is comparative, and both Kendall and Graeme Souness know only too well that at the end of this season when, presumably, both clubs are safe, a lot of people are still going to ask why the threat of relegation ever had to be contemplated.
Having lost Mike Marsh through suspension and Rob Jones with influenza, Liverpool seemed further diminished 10 minutes into the match when Peter Beardsley's challenge led to Mark Wright hobbling off, leaving Jan Molby to take his place, initially without much confidence since he immediately allowed John Ebbrell to thrust past him. David James was equal to the ensuing shot, and as the game became quicker and more irritable, so it became obvious that the change in the Liverpool defence had added even more to the disparity in height and weight between them and Everton's Tony Cottee and Beardsley.
Admittedly, Everton's approach work was often the more considered, but the end product was always uncertain. At least when Wright was on the pitch he would drop back allowing them to avoid offside, whereas Molby and Steve Nicol wanted to play square and slow. All that Everton could do was to break through at pace. From set-pieces they had some opportunities, yet even when Andy Hinchcliffe curled the ball across the goalmouth, Cottee could only head over.
Not that Cottee's miss was anything like as wasteful as Steve McManaman's dismal shot round the far post after Ian Rush had set him up with an outstanding pass that on another day McManaman would have devoured.
Here, though, there was always the usual tension of the occasion compounded by weeks of worry. The decision to retain John Barnes in the England squad obviously placed him under more pressure; though he is far from having recovered what pace he had, his touch was still profoundly superior to that of most others.
Everton tried to add power to their attack, replacing Billy Kenny with Stuart Barlow and placing him alongside Cottee with Beardsley dropping deeper. All this was to little avail as Liverpool dominated the second half and what chances Everton had were gratuitously wasted. How they paid at the death.
Not that Liverpool should have been delayed for so long before achieving their third successive League win. Their profligacy was almost as embarrassing as Everton's, but at least they created the opportunities. McManaman and Barlow virtually vied for the worst error. On the hour Beardsley miscued a back pass and McManaman was clean through but slowed to allow the excellent Gary Ablett to catch him, and the shot when it came was weak. Barlow's effort was spectacularly awful since he only had James ahead of him, but he lifted a terrible shot over, leaving the game to be decided by Rosenthal, who had replaced McManaman with considerable effect. Barnes threaded a pass through the penalty area and Rosenthal blasted in a low shot while Everton appealed to a linesman and all the gods of misfortune.
Liverpool: D James; S Harkness, D Burrows, S Nicol, M Wright (J Molby, 10 min), R Whelan, S McManaman (R Rosenthal, 75 min), D Hutchison, I Rush, J Barnes, M Walters. Sub not used: M Hooper (gk). Manager: G Souness.
Everton: N Southall; M Jackson, A Hinchcliffe, I Snodin, D Watson, G Ablett, M Ward (P Radosavljevic, 63 min), P Beardsley, T Cottee, B Kenny (S Barlow, 52 min), J Ebbrell. Sub not used: J Kearton (gk). Manager: H Kendall.
Referee: P Don (Hanworth, Middx).
Goal: Rosenthal (1-0, 90 min).