Everton 3 Liverpool 0: Everton school of history falls for new vision of Johnson

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In Everton's long adoration of outstanding strikers, from the ultimately relentless Dixie Dean to the congenitally spasmodic Duncan Ferguson, there was one fantasy figure. Less physically authoritative than Bob Latchford or Joe Royle, much more ornate than the clinical Gary Lineker, Alex Young was known as the "Golden Vision". From his neatly cut blond thatch to his delicate toes, Young thrilled the fans and exasperated his manager, Harry Catterick, who was jostled by an angry crowd when he dropped him in favour of the teenaged Royle.

On a day of huge historical significance at Goodison Park, such reflections were inevitable because here, at the heart of an extraordinary response to the crushing of Liverpool in the old stadium, was the antithesis of the "Golden Vision": bald, earnest, but virtually unplayable Andy Johnson.

The irony was as heavy as the euphoria which greeted a performance which surely propelled Johnson into the forefront of the thinking of the watching England head coach, Steve McClaren, and pushed the Everton manger, David Moyes, to the limits of his normally understated reaction to both the highs and lows of his professional life.

What was most satisfying to Moyes was that the selling point he made to Johnson when he paid Crystal Palace £8.5m this summer has acquired such powerful early momentum. "I said to Andy when he came what a hero he could become here," Moyes recalled. "I told him the supporters here were longing to grab on to a hero, and maybe nowadays you need to pay this sort of money to sign a player who makes a difference. We've done that and I think you can see why."

Certainly, such affirmation swept around the directors' box, where Everton's chairman, Bill Kenwright, described watching Johnson's tour de force as an "out-of-body experience" - a considerable tribute from a theatrical producer whose own past signings include Jessica Lange.

McClaren's assessment will be expressed most relevantly when he picks his next England squad. On current form Johnson is operating in a superior league to both Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe.

A partnership with Wayne Rooney would have the supreme merit of involving players with a natural instinct in the vital matters of movement and positional sense; Johnson not only showed a true predator's nature in ravaging Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher, he also brilliantly related to his team-mates.

Here was something beyond the ProZone stats which McClaren has recently been building in defence of underperforming England players. It was genuine flair on the run, productive and never less than relevant to the team cause.

If there is any caution to be placed against Johnson's dramatic emergence - one that creates another echo from the days of Sven Goran Eriksson's misadventure of giving the player a brief run, on the right flank - it was Liverpool's alarming lack of security at the back of defence. Hyypia's loss of pace was catastrophic and most painfully exposed in Johnson's first and Everton's second goal, when a mistake by Carragher, plainly far from his usual self after a swift return from injury, could scarcely obscure the root cause, which was the ease with which Johnson consigned Hyypia to his slipstream.

Everton, as Moyes conceded, were perhaps not three goals better than Liverpool; not, certainly, on the balance of chances, but then Rafa Benitez, the Liverpool manager, was in no mood to attempt to reassure the faithful or himself. If the midfield creators Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso had failed utterly to make a mark, if Crouch and Robbie Fowler had mostly been inert, suggested Benitez, it all paled against the central problem - a disastrous breakdown in the defensive culture that served his team so well over his first two years.

Benitez said that much work was needed, especially in defence, where worries about the nerve of Jose Reina were only compounded by his tragicomic concession of the third goal. Reina had looked destined for some kind of accident most of the afternoon, which might have had something to do with the ease with which Johnson cut into the thin, porous red line in front of him.

Benitez added: "Maybe when you have more offensive players [coming into the club], you need to work harder in defence. Maybe also some players coming back [from international duty] have not been training together a lot this year. You can find excuses for everyone but it's a team improvement that's needed.

"The attitude is easy to change. You can do that in one minute. It's the movement and tactics that you need to work on."

On the absence of Craig Bellamy, Benitez implied that it was a straight matter of selection, and suggested that if Crouch or Fowler had been omitted there probably would have been no questions. If this is indeed so, if there is no more sinister explanation, with Liverpool suffering a killing lack of pace on Saturday afternoon, Bellamy's disappearance will be necessarily brief.

For the moment Moyes needs to demand no more than the same, especially from Phil Neville. For so long an acolyte at Old Trafford, in particular of the often domineering Roy Keane, Neville is emerging in his own right at Goodison Park. Had Johnson not made such a compelling impact, Neville would have unquestionably marched to man-of-the-match status.

At right-back for England in Macedonia earlier in the week his most eye-catching contribution was a series of long throws-in. Here, Neville was equally evident on and off the ball. The result was that Everton suggested that Moyes may now be in his strongest position to confirm Everton's return to the élite of the English game

Certainly, he was able to spend his Sunday lingering over some delightful historical nuggets. One of them was that Tim Cahill's opening goal meant that for the first time for over a century an Everton player had scored against Liverpool in three successive seasons. The author of that feat was a sepia "Golden Vision" - Alex "Sandy" Young. This, though, is maybe enough history for the former aristocrats. They may prefer to believe they are hurtling back to the future.

Goals: Cahill (24) 1-0; Johnson (36) 2-0; Johnson (90) 3-0.

Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert, Yobo, Lescott, Naysmith; Osman (Beattie, 83), Neville, Carsley, Arteta (Valente, 90); Cahill; Johnson. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Weir, Van der Meyde.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio; Gerrard, Sissoko, Alonso, Garcia; Crouch (Kuyt, 53), Fowler (Riise, 64). Substitutes not used: Dudek (gk), Agger.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

Booked: Everton Yobo; Liverpool Sissoko, Riise, Hyypia.

Man of the match: Johnson.

Attendance: 40,004.

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