The Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton has had everything that makes for a dramatic footballing history including memorable cup finals, controversial goals, bloodbaths, poignant moments (read Hillsborough) and noisy cauldrons. The likes of Ian Rush, Dixie Dean, Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard, Graeme Sharp, Robbie Fowler, Gary McAllister and Peter Beardsley have netted goals to create a glittering history that will be ornamented further this Tuesday.
The concomitant rise of both the teams has generated a great deal of anticipation that ‘the derby’ will regain the status that it used to enjoy in the 80′s and if this season’s previous encounter at Goodison Park is anything to go by then the future looks bright. Liverpool have the small business of a cup-tie at Bournemouth to settle before they set their eyes on what can prove to be a season defining fixture for them. Everton under Roberto Martinez have gathered momentum and exhibited the kind of promise that they never did under David Moyes. Their performances this season have also triggered a retrospective assessment of the period under David Moyes. Martinez has added to the defensive stability that characterized Everton under David Moyes with his brand of attacking play that is founded upon keeping possession.
Liverpool, on the other hand, are recovering a bit of the sheen under Brendan Rodgers that they have lost in recent years playing outside Europe’s elite competition. This recovery has been spurred by Rodgers’ definite style of play that combines speed, possession, attacking flair, mobility on and off the ball that has allowed them to be free-scoring (only behind Manchester City in terms of goals scored this season). The pair of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge at the head of the pitch is a danger to any defense in the world.
The Merseyside derby has the reputation of being a friendly derby inspite of the fierce competitiveness that has always been on display on the field. This is so because the club loyalty lines cut across family homes polarizing fathers and sons, siblings and so on. The entire Merseyside is divided into blue and red in a manner that Manchester, for instance, isn’t. However, in the Premier league era the Merseyside derby has earned a great deal of notoriety for drawing the maximum number of cards from referees.
That will be the second chapter of the Merseyside derby this season with the honours shared with an emphatic scoreline of 3-3 at Goodison park. That has reignited hopes of yet another goal-fest at Anfield and that makes this a great point to reminisce upon some unforgettable moments offered by this contest. Here is a list of top five Merseyside derbies that have fired our imagination in the post-Premier League era:
5. Premier League (2012) Liverpool 3-0 Everton at Anfield
A partisan selection to begin this list but a special hat-trick from Liverpool’s talismanic captain on his 400th appearance makes it a special game as the robust mid-fielder stamped his name on the history of this fixture with some flair. The match was an exhibition of Gerrard’s characteristic bursting runs into the penalty area as he scored all three of his goals from open play. The first was a deft shot of his left foot chipping the ball into the net as it rolled out of the penalty area after a bit of ping-pong. He picked up the ball from the feet of Luis Suarez for the second scoring from close range putting on show the quality of an attacking midfielder who has an eye for goal. He made a surging run for his third and passed unselfishly only to receive a pass back that was slotted coolly into the net with the left foot yet again. The match was one of the great highlights of Kenny Dalglish’s otherwise rather glum second coming.
Liverpool finished outside of the Champions League position in that season once again but this victory sent a crucial message to their Merseyside rivals who had begun to establish claims of being the better league side and have indeed finished above Liverpool in recent seasons. The swing of the pendulum is something to watch out for once again this season and the Tuesday fixture sees Liverpool going into the contest just a point ahead.
4. Premier League (2013) Everton 3-3 Liverpool at Goodison Park
This season’s derby deserves a place on this list for many reasons. The quality of football on display was exceptional as both teams played aggressively to create an exhibition of end-to-end football that will remain in memory for a long time. It also reignited the passion that seemed missing from the fixture under the reign of David Moyes under whom Everton looked conservative in their approach. Apart from the six goals scored, the derby launched some really promising young talent as Everton’s Ross Barkley sparkled in an advanced midfield position causing all sorts of trouble for the Reds. On the other hand, Brendan Rodgers handed Jon Flanagan a start who brought the enthusiasm of a local lad to the fixture. This was also a game in which strikers stamped their authority on the game with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Suarez and Daniel Sturridge on display.
The match got off to a whirlwindy start when Brazilian prodigy Philippe Coutinho found himself unmarked at the end of a Steven Gerrard and showed exemplary composure to tap in the first goal. Everton fought back hard as Kevin Mirallas showed predator like quality to take advantage of a scramble created by a Leighton Baines free-kick. Liverpool’s mercurial no.7 Luis Suarez stroked a characteristic penalty in the 17th minute to give Liverpool the lead once again. This time it was cancelled by Belgian Romelu Lukaku in the 72nd minute as he applied a finish to excellent build up play by Everton from near the penalty spot. Lukaku doubled his tally soon after as he towered in the penalty are to head in what seemed to be the decisive third goal of the game. The match looked over when Rodgers looked at Daniel Sturridge for inspiration who came of the bench to quieten the home fans and salvage a morale-boosting point for the Reds.