Kanchelskis swings the Blues

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Liverpool 1

Fowler 89

Everton 2

Kanchelskis 53, 69


THE problematic gap between Liverpool and the leaders gets no narrower thanks to the special demands and unpredictability of the Merseyside Derby which at Anfield yesterday saw Andrei Kanchelskis score twice on his first appearance in one of these fraught local battles and Everton at last rewarded for a job well done.

While everyone had been saying how wonderfully well Liverpool had been playing recently, the results had not always reflected the quality of performance. Everton, on the other hand, had been working enormously hard and hardly moving out of the troublesome part of the division. But when it comes to the Liverpool Derby prediction is a dangerous thing. Yet you only had to look at the wealth of valuable players left out of the Liverpool side to think that this was going to be a case of the Reds being redoubtable and the Blues being simply blue. Not so. But it was not until the second half that Everton's packing of midfield paid off.

Steve McManaman, who England restrict to a wide berth, here immediately began to roam and cause pandemonium in Everton's defence. In only the eighth minute his delicate back heel allowed Robbie Fowler to move quickly to the edge of the penalty area and play the ball through to Ian Rush who pounded it in, only to be given offside. Everton knew what the score was likely to be if they relaxed.

Elbows flew, Craig Short twice flattened the dangerous Fowler, Everton's Gary Ablett had to abandon the game after only 22 minutes, and everything combined to bring the heat, passion and incident on which these local confrontations thrive.

In the first half Everton had their moments, but Liverpool their minutes. The speed of Kanchelskis sometimes had Liverpool retreating uncomfortably and Graham Stuart might have done better when Paul Rideout knocked the ball down into his path. In the main, it was Liverpool's composure at the back and the underestimated placid control of John Barnes that created the basis for their early superiority.

But it was to be another of those days when superiority was difficult to convert into goals. Liverpool must have had their worries when just before half-time Stuart flighted a long-range shot that drifted on to the far post and hit David James on the rebound. It was a shot that deserved more than a corner.

In spite of the splendid defensive covering of Mark Wright, the Liverpool defence was beginning to be pulled out of position by Kanchelskis. So it was appropriate that after 52 minutes he should escape the attention of both Wright and John Scales in front of the Liverpool goal. As the ball came in from Rideout on the right, Kanchelskis immediately snapped a near-range shot in off the post for his first goal for Everton.

His second was not long delayed and was thoroughly deserved. Anders Limpar skipped over a couple of unconvincing challenges as he moved quickly into the Liverpool half. He saw Kanchelskis get behind Phil Babb and found him with a penetrating, diagonal pass. Kanchelskis controlled the ball instantly and drove it inside the near post.

Liverpool's frustration was understandable but Everton had worked unstintingly throughout, just as they had in many other matches this season, but without this sort of reward. Typical of their performance was the tireless effort of John Ebbrell, whose quiet but essential labour in midfield was almost as important as the goals.

The frustration that Liverpool felt overflowed in what could have been a pitched battle after some lunges on Neville Southall, but the referee acted quickly and well.

Everton had shown ample fighting spirit as it was. Prolonged attacking by Liverpool over the final minutes may have ended with Fowler striking a shot through a packed penalty area to score, but it was too late to be relevant.