Red was the colour of the day in the Mersey derby, the visitors running out ultimately comfortable winners after a red card midway through the first half for Everton's Jack Rodwell, a decision that will leave the trigger-happy referee Martin Atkinson's face the same colour as a Liverpool shirt once he watches a replay; the tackle was not worth even a free-kick.
Tim Howard gave his team-mates and the home crowd a boost shortlybefore half time by saving Dirk Kuyt's penalty – a decision with which there could be no argument – but Everton, forced to withdraw Tim Cahill to a deeper position, were inevitably on the back foot after having made the early running. In the final 20 minutes Andy Carroll scored his first League goal of the season and Luis Suarez doubled the lead.
Until the fourth sending-off by Atkinson in seven games this season, this was shaping up to be an intriguing, even contest. After it, Liverpool failed to touch any heights, though they appear to be settling into a system that uses the very different talents of Suarez and Carroll, with Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt supplying them, to best effect. Kuyt, whose head might have gone down after missing the penalty, was able to leave the pitch with it held high.
Once Rodwell was dismissed, however, the only question realistically was whether Liverpool would score. "I just thought that ruined the day," Everton's manager David Moyes said with justification. "I'd have been disappointed if it was even a free-kick. We were in there competing with Liverpool but the game stopped at that moment."
Kenny Dalglish, returning to Goodison for his first match since retiring 20 years ago in the wake of a fraught FA Cup tie, admitted that the game had been "pretty even at 11 against 11" but praised Kuyt for his reaction and, characteristically, "the team effort".
There had been an early chance each, with Suarez finding no power in a header from Kuyt's cross and Cahill, a minute later, doing much better from Seamus Coleman's centre, Pepe Reina saving well. Shots by Sylvain Distin and Louis Saha were offering them further encouragement before the key moment of the whole drama. Rodwell slid in with one foot to win the ball from Suarez, catching him a minor blow on the follow-through, and the snorts of disbelief from old derby warriors like the watching Graeme Souness and Jimmy Case were easy to imagine as Atkinson brandished a straight red card.
It was the 12th in the two clubs' past 16 meetings, but will be rescinded if sense prevails. Fortunately for the officials, there was no dispute about the penalty awarded to Liverpool a minute before the interval, Phil Jagielka's clip of Suarez's legs was so blatant that his hands were raised in self-disgust rather than protest. Kuyt, seeking his 50th League goal, struck his kick right towards the bottom corner but Howard was down splendidlyto push it away. The goalkeeper was beaten when Charlie Adam thumped a drive against the bar in the next attack before half-time.
From the start of the second half Liverpool pushed Martin Kelly further forward down the right, and Carroll, quiet hitherto, began winning some headers in dangerous positions. Although Saha and then Howard thwarted him, he was not to bedenied. Steven Gerrard came on to add another 25 minutes' work to his recovery programme, but the most influential substitute was Craig Bellamy. In the 71st minute his run and pass sent Jose Enrique down the left to pull back a cross that Carroll swept in with a left-footed shot.
Ten minutes later a second goal materialised, Kuyt finding Suarez, who was dispossessed by Leighton Baines, only for Distin to clear feebly against the Uruguayan, who beat Howard from an angle. Saha then wasted a chance to spark a late revival.Suarez complained of having objects thrown at him near the end before he took a quick corner from which Kuyt hit the post.
"The team did everything and it was us lost the game, not the referee," Moyes said generously. "We made a couple of defensive lapses." With net spending of £112 million less than Liverpool's since he moved to Goodison, the Everton manager has a thankless task and supporters can hardly be looking for much more than respectability this season or any other until the club is sold to someone with deeper pockets than poor Bill Kenwright.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert (Vellios, 78), Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Coleman (Drenthe, 59), Fellaini, Rodwell, Osman (Neville, 69); Cahill; Saha
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Carragher, Enrique; Kuyt, Adam (Gerrard, 67), Lucas (Henderson, 88), Downing (Bellamy, 67); Suarez, Carroll.
Referee Martin Atkinson.
Man of the match Kuyt (Liverpool)