Two sent off but Gerrard full of praise for 'superb' Atkinson

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The Independent Football

Steven Gerrard praised the referee Martin Atkinson after he sent off a player from each side in a derby which the losing manager, David Moyes, described with masterful understatement as "feisty".

Both sides were reduced to 10 men as Sotirios Kyrgiakos' first-half dismissal was followed by that of Steven Pienaar in time added on, but Liverpool's captain was quick to defend Atkinson: "I thought the referee was superb."

"He let tackles go, and that's what derbies are all about: passion, commitment and fight," he added. "That's what the fans pay good money for – to see that commitment. There were some mistimed tackles from both sides but we're not complaining and I don't think Everton will.

"We beat a very good Everton side today with 10 men so I think all the boys should enjoy this. They've been on a fantastic run so we're really pleased to stop them with 10 men and play some good football. We always knew that we were going to be up against it at times but we knew that if we could fight for set-pieces and chances – and if you get the right delivery – with people like Dirk [Kuyt], you always know you can get a goal."

Liverpool, pushing hard for a top-four place, now face tough away fixtures, against Arsenal on Wednesday and Manchester City. Gerrard said: "After today I think confidence is sky high but we certainly won't get carried away. We've got two very difficult games on the road but if we show the same effort and desire as we did today, I don't see why we can't get points."

Rafael Benitez said Kuyt could now be regarded as an Anfield "hero" and hailed a "massive" win. "To win in the derby is always really important," the Liverpool manager (pictured) said. "To win it with 10 players is even more important." He declined to be drawn on the sendings-off. "I thought there were too many tackles that you [the media] can analyse better than us, watching it on the TV, so I prefer not to comment on the referee. We tried to do our best [to keep the players calm] before the game, telling them to play with their heads and not their hearts, but sometimes it's difficult."

Moyes saw no controversy over Kyrgiakos' red card, calling it "a two-footed tackle, both feet off the ground", and admitted Pienaar may have received his just deserts. "No complaints because there was a tackle earlier in the game where he was fortunate to stay on," the Everton manager said. "I didn't see it in the game but in the end he's got a red card so there can't be much argument about it."

Moyes argued his team did not deserve to lose the game. "We might not have deserved to win it, because we didn't create enough chances with the extra man," he said. "But Liverpool's goal came from a set-piece. In the past it has been us doing that. We needed more width at times which we didn't have, and we didn't have the top end of quality which was required."