Dismal Reds show Henry the extent of his problems
Everton 2 Liverpool 0
It must have been in the boardrooms of Wall Street that John W Henry developed his poker face as a useful tactic in closing big deals, and at Goodison Park yesterday it came in handy concealing the true emotions of a man who had just spent £300m on a team that is shot to bits.
There was no other description for a Liverpool side whose performance was so far from the level required for this match and this stage in their tumultuous history – not to mention their precarious league position – that at times it was hard to believe.
There have been some bad moments in the life of this club in the last two years but now that the hated Tom Hicks and George Gillett have gone, who do the supporters take to the streets to protest against? Roy Hodgson appears to be in a state of denial. Fernando Torres looks like he would sooner be playing for Recreativo Huelva. Steven Gerrard wears the expression of a man who needs a phonecall from the Samaritans.
After eight games of the season, the most successful club in British football history are 19th in the Premier League with six points from eight games, only above West Ham by virtue of a better goal difference. The Everton fans saw off their illustrious neighbours with the chant "Going down" and ludicrous though that sounds it is by no means an impossibility.
The man from Boston has been carried in to his new club this week on a wave of optimism and understandable hope that the storm – to borrow a familiar line – had passed. Unfortunately Liverpool walked straight out from under that rain cloud into the perfect storm at Goodison Park, where they were ambushed by a team that looked more coherent, more confident and much more capable than Hodgson's players.
As the hand-wringing goes on this week over Liverpool it will probably be forgotten that David Moyes' team found themselves in a familiar position before yesterday's game. They too had only six points before yesterday and were languishing near the bottom of the Premier League without a bountiful new American owner to celebrate, but they approached this Merseyside derby very differently to their neighbours.
Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta took their chances well and, when they had to defend for long periods of the second half, Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka were excellent. For all their own false dawns over the years, Everton have never been engulfed by the torpor afflicting Liverpool now. They are bad at the moment and Joe Cole is having the season from hell.
Hodgson will unfortunately be obliged to take most of the flack from an appalled Liverpool support. It is a pity because in a profession that often favours the bully, the Liverpool manager is virtually incapable of a harsh word. He tried to admonish a Norwegian journalist for asking questions about Torres' fitness but never quite built up the head of steam for a proper monstering.
The trouble with Hodgson's decision to claim that this was a good Liverpool performance – or at least the best during his time in charge – is that it was so evidently a tactic designed to protect his players. This was a dreadful Liverpool performance and everyone knew it, none more so than Hodgson's players. There was no capital in defending them. No one would have blamed Hodgson for calling it as he surely must have seen it.
If Hodgson really thought this was a decent performance then Liverpool's problems really do run deeper than even Henry had first presumed. The American has said that he has no intention of getting rid of Hodgson but his club is fast reaching the point when critical decisions will have to be made. Liverpool have fewer points than Hull City did at the same stage of the season 12 months ago.
It did not look too clever as early as the first few minutes when Jamie Carragher shouted at Torres to make a run in order to receive a pass and Torres responded by putting his finger to his lips. Increasingly there is the feeling that Torres is doing Liverpool a favour by turning out every week and that the club have become a millstone for him rather than a great platform on which to perform.
There was a moment in the first half when Gerrard's ball over the top to the right wing to Torres that put him in a race with Distin that he never looked like winning. All of a sudden Torres looks like a newly-arrived foreign player who does not want to cope with the physical demands of Premier League defenders rather than the man who, two seasons ago, was the best striker in the division.
Everton's first goal was made by the impressive 22-year-old Seamus Coleman, a £60,000 signing from Sligo Rovers, who went down the right wing past Lucas Leiva and held off Paul Konchesky long enough to get the ball across for Cahill. The ball took a deflection off Konchesky that Hodgson said was responsible for it eluding Martin Skrtel and presenting Cahill with the chance to score from close range.
The goal was a reward for the pressure that Everton had in the early stage when the game was at its most intense. That it never really threatened to boil over was only because Liverpool's confidence had all but disappeared by half-time. Arteta and Cahill both left a bit on Gerrard in one surge forward from the Liverpool captain in the first half but Gerrard had bigger problems to worry about than a row with those two.
Five minutes after half-time Sotirios Kyrgiakos only managed a weak clearing header from Leighton Baines' corner and the ball fell nicely for Arteta on the edge of the box. He struck it on the half-volley and the shot came quickly through a crowd of players. It was close to Pepe Reina but the ball was past him so fast he could not react in time.
A comeback was never really on the cards. Henry, who chose not to go back into the Everton directors' suite at half-time, stayed stoically to the end. It was not the way that the new era was supposed to begin. It could be worse from Liverpool's point of view – they could still have Hicks and Gillett in charge – but that is about all the comfort that could be taken.
Subs: Everton: Bilyaletdinov (Osman, h/t), Hibbert (Heitinga, 72), Beckford (Arteta, 73). Unused: Mucha (gk), Gueye, Mustafi, Baxter. Liverpool: Ngog (Lucas, 71), Babel (Cole, 80), Jovanovic (Rodriguez, 84). Unused: Jones (gk), Aurelio, Spearing, Kelly. Booked: Everton: Cahill, Beckford. Liverpool: Meireles, Rodriguez, Torres. Man of the match Distin. Possession Everton 45% Liverpool 55%. Shots on targetEverton 7 Liverpool 10. Referee HWebb (South Yorkshire). Att 39,673. Match rating 6/10.
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