I guess the fairest (and expected) way to discuss this game is pre and post red card.
Perhaps as a consequence of the criticisms the media made relating to Everton’s last game David Moyes began with a more attacking lineup; Cahill joined by Saha, backed up with Osman out wide. Liverpool partnered Carroll with Suarez and swapped in Everton bogey man Dirk Kuyt in his regular role.
Both teams began well, looking to get forward and, Everton in particular, take every chance available. Before the sending off I was looking forward to talking about what a true game it was; challenges were solid but fair, and everyone from the officials to the players were acting sensibly. It seemed like quite an even game, the most likely root of goal looking like a cross to Cahill. Luis Suarez also wasted a good opportunity early on with a tame header.
There was always going to be a sending off in the fixture that has recorded more red cards than any other, obviously Martin Atkinson got a shorthand version of the script and produced an early bath for Jack Rodwell 22 minutes in.
Was it a red? Wasn’t it? It was both, the immediate reaction was that it certainly was. Initial replays however showed that a red card was incorrect. Further viewing via the wonders of Sky+ has revealed all to me; Atkinson sees Rodwell leave the ground with a boot up, he perhaps sees him take the ball first, but ignores it due to the recklessness of the challenge.The replays show that Rodwell didn’t make contact with Suarez’s left leg – a challenge that could have resulted in a break.
What I missed first time, was that Rodwell did make contact with Suarez’s right leg, his standing leg, above the boot. As shown here:
It was an excessive follow-through, whether there was any intention I can’t say. Now Souness would say that the contact is void because Rodwell got the ball first, but that’s Souness. The only time he doesn’t go in two-footed is hopscotch.
It is still a very harsh red card though, but valid. Most referees would have shied away given the situation and the lack of injury to Suarez, and I don’t think that would’ve been the wrong call either. However, Atkinson was certain, producing the card before the question of Liverpool interference can be asked.
Obviously Everton had to avoid conceding instantly, or even in that half, and responded by withdrawing Cahill to midfield, leaving Saha up front as a target man; a thankless task in that heat. Liverpool obviously began to dominate possession, Lucas Leiva showing just how much he has come along as a holding midfielder. He completed more passes than anybody on the field (68) and only conceded possession when playing riskier, attacking balls, which aren’t his forte. I think he showed today, despite the comfortable circumstances, that he is the man for the Reds in midfield.
Liverpool still struggled to break the impressive Everton defense; Jagielka and Distin proving solid as they did against Man City. It took until the 70th minute for Liverpool to get the slightly inevitable goal.
Carroll had two good chances on goal from corners and did appear to liven up around the hour mark. Although the space the big man made for the goal was fortuitous, nothing can be taken away from Dirk Kuyt, who showed excellent composure and intelligence to leave Enrique’s ball for Carroll to finish. After the game, Dalglish said that Carroll was his best player. Andy defended reasonably well against the threat of Fellaini and got all three shots on target, but I feel he should be winning more long balls overall.
The second goal was a result of Suarez’s determination and work rate (which rivaled Kuyt’s), and the fatigue Baines and Distin must’ve been feeling.
Overall the result wasn’t too bad for Everton, Liverpool not punishing the Blues as they themselves were punished by Spurs after Charlie Adam’s early red card. A few woodwork testers from Adam, Kuyt and Gerrard, and a missed penalty could have seen it different though.