Heskey strike makes Liverpool's day onwards and upwards

Second-half surge keeps Anfield run intact as Everton fail to capitalise on Gascoigne's promptings
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The Independent Football

On a dark, dank Anfield afternoon, when the Kopite call to walk on through the wind and the rain carried a literal resonance, Liverpool swept to a pulsating victory over Everton in Merseyside's 163rd League derby yesterday and regained third place in the Premiership in the process.

On a dark, dank Anfield afternoon, when the Kopite call to walk on through the wind and the rain carried a literal resonance, Liverpool swept to a pulsating victory over Everton in Merseyside's 163rd League derby yesterday and regained third place in the Premiership in the process.

Liverpool ultimately deserved their 58th success in the 106-year series - and only their second in 13 attempts over the past six and a half years - after producing an irresistible second-half performance. Yet they could have counted themselves fortunate not to have come in at half-time trailing 3-1 to an Everton side initially inspired by Paul Gascoigne.

At that stage the sides stood level at 1-1, Nick Barmby's early goal for Liverpool against the club he forsook so controversially during the summer having been swiftly nullified by Everton's 200th derby goal, scored by Kevin Campbell.

However, as Gascoigne faded, so did Walter Smith's team, and a thrillingly struck goal by Emile Heskey, the £11m striker's sixth in four matches, restored the smile on Gérard Houllier's face shortly after the interval.

Everton's woes worsened when Thomas Gravesen, an outstanding ally to Gascoigne in the opening stages, was sent off for a professional foul on Vladmir Smicer with 13 minutes remaining. The ensuing penalty by Patrik Berger matched Heskey's goal in its ferocity.

Such a convincing margin had not seemed plausible as Everton, cajoled by the new, slimline Gascoigne, settled more quickly. They should have gone ahead in only the fifth minute when Gravesen's deftly flicked pass left Mark Pembridge with only Sander Westerveld to beat. The prospect seemed to faze the Welshman, who sent his shot wide.

Pembridge's fortunes lurched from bad to worse. His lunging foul on Barmby may have satisfied those among the Everton support who regard the England midfielder as a "Judas" figure, but it incurred a heavy penalty.

Not only was Pembridge cautioned but the resultant free-kick led to Liverpool going ahead. The ball was worked across the pitch to Christian Ziege, who fed it into a congested 18-yard area whereupon it was deflected off Abel Xavier. Barmby, arriving unmarked beyond the far post, combined power and placement in heading his first Premiership goal for Liverpool.

His celebrations were as exaggerated as any in this fixture since Andy King famously struck to end a run of Liverpool victories two decades ago. But the home supporters' gloating - which had increased in volume when Pembridge hooked an excellent chance wide 60 seconds after Barmby's sweet vindication - stuck in their throats as Everton drew level.

From a corner-kick on the right, taken by Idan Tal, the ball sailed over Westerveld and the sundry bodies surrounding him. David Weir alone appeared to have anticipated the possibilities, rising to nod the ball back into the six-yard area. From point-blank range, Campbell headed his second goal of an injury-scarred season.

One teenaged Everton fan, who had been secreted in the Kop, seized the opportunity to sprint the length of the pitch, pursued by the local constabulary, to join his comrades. A scrum of stewards and police headed him off at the pass, and his team's ambitions were to be similarly thwarted.

Gascoigne, while not disappearing as he might have done in his Middlesbrough days, struggled to maintain control of midfield. The paucity of Everton's forward options, already exposed by the absence of Duncan Ferguson and Francis Jeffers, became increasingly apparent, especially with Campbell also clearly less than fully fit.

Dietmar Hamann, scarcely involved during the first half, looked like a man who had been told to pull the proverbial finger out and began to link effectively with Gary McAllister. Berger also moved up several gears, although there was a certain inevitability about Barmby's role as Liverpool regained the initiative.

The referee, Paul Durkin, also deserves praise for allowing play to continue after Barmby, climbing to lay off McAllister's pass, had been barged to the ground by the haplessly ubiquitous Pembridge. Heskey, taking vicious and clinical aim from 25 yards, ensured that for once the "advantage rule" lived up to its name.

Everton rallied briefly, with Westerveld receiving the chance to demonstrate that while he remains worryingly weak on crosses, he is a fine shot stopper. Pembridge and Gravesen were among those forced to rue the fact before the Liverpool goalkeeper turned playmaker to decisive effect.

Having made another agile save from a Steve Watson header, the Dutchman launched a towering clearance. Gary Naysmith mis-read it badly, enabling his fellow substitute Smicer to run clear. Gravesen, chasing back, toppled the Liverpool player from behind and had hardly completed his trudge to the dug-out before Berger powered the spot-kick past Paul Gerrard.

"You'll Never Walk Alone" rolled down from the stands as Liverpool, now with more than just hope in their hearts, savoured the final whistle. Smicer made a bee-line for Gascoigne and made off with his shirt, leaving the Geordie jester to symbolise Everton's empty-handedness as he departed, bare-chested in the deluge.

Goals: Barmby (12) 1-0; Campbell (17) 1-1; Heskey (56) 2-1; Berger pen (78) 3-1.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Westerveld; S Gerrard (Carragher, 87) Babbel, Hyypia, Ziege; Barmby, McAllister, Hamann, Berger; Fowler (Smicer, 69), Heskey. Substitutes not used: Murphy, Traore, Arphexad (gk).

Everton (4-5-1): P Gerrard; S Watson, Abel Xavier, Weir, Ball (Naysmith, 53); Gravesen, Nyarko, Gascoigne, Pembridge, Tal (Moore, 67); Campbell. Substitutes not used: Unsworth, Gemmill, Simonsen (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).

Booking: Everton: Pembridge. Sending off: Gravesen.

Man of the match: Gravesen.

Attendance: 44,718.