Liverpool 4 Everton 0

Is it safe to look yet?

Have they stopped scoring?

Just where do you start with a night like that?

Remember against Queens Park Rangers, when we said that Antolin Alcaraz looked like a drunken uncle playing footy in the garden against little kids? Well imagine if that self-same fella got woken up from his hammock and told to play against Luis Suarez.

Clearly the responsibility for one of the worst humiliations at Anfield in living memory – and boy there’s some stiff competition there – doesn’t lie with the paceless Paraguayan. His selection in such a big game though, in a defence that also featured rookie centre-half John Stones at right-back, gives some indication of the cobbled-together nature of the first Everton side that Roberto Martinez took across the park.

As suspected, a number of other players whose fitness was in question were deemed fit enough, but as we feared beforehand, Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar looked lacking in match sharpness after a bright enough opening 15 minutes.

It was a night when almost everything that could go wrong did, apart from Daniel Sturridge blazing a penalty over the bar. By that point though, four goals up, Liverpool could more or less laugh that off.

Imagine that. In the derby.

Liverpool’s opener came on 21 minutes when Steven Gerrard connected with Luis Suarez’s excellent corner to crash a header in at the near post.

To add injury to insult, Gareth Barry not only lost Gerrard’s run but he also slipped and crashed into Romelu Lukaku, taking his leg out like a skittle. The Belgian striker hobbled off with ankle ligament damage, replaced by the willing but ineffective Steven Naismith, and our fate was pretty much sealed.

A load of coins also got lashed at Suarez as he took the corner and the police are now involved. It’s not clever, and neither is trying to convince a magistrate that ‘Banzai! You horrible fucking crab!’ is a term of endearment where you come from.

The only players to come out of the game with any real credit for the Blues were Kevin Mirallas and second half substitute Leon Osman. Mirallas has been accused of being something of a fair weather player in the past but despite Everton’s glaring deficiencies in this hopeless encounter he almost singlehandedly took the game to Liverpool at times and nearly equalised with a low shot that skimmed narrowly wide, just before the roof completely caved in.

On 33 minutes Phillipe Coutinho released Sturridge into the space where Everton should theoretically have had a defence and the England striker finished easily past the helpless Tim Howard.

If that one wasn’t bad enough, the next, less than two minutes later, essentially killed the game stone dead.

Sturridge again latched onto a high, straight ball out of defence, unencumbered by anything as gauche as a blue-shirted marker. He still had some work to do though, to bring the big hoof down and get himself facing the goal, but Howard spared him all that by legging out towards a ball he could not possibly reach. Only one of them golf sale signs with LOB ME written on it would have been more inviting.

3-0 at half time, they are all going bananas, understandably, while the Everton team shuffle down the tunnel with the haunted look of men who should be wearing necklaces made of ears.

After the restart Osman comes on and they pin Liverpool back initially, but as they say, it’s the hope that kills you. The hope, and suicide passes by Phil Jagielka.

Suarez cut out the England defender’s lazy sideways pass, surged from just inside his own half and slotted past Howard as everyone knew he would.

All that remained, as if that wasn’t enough, was for Sturridge to toey the penalty over. We could complain about the supposed foul itself by Howard on Raheem Sterling – it’s getting to the point where referees might as well point to the spot the moment a player is put through now – but that wasn’t really the night’s big talking point.

If only.

Liverpool were very good. They pressurised Everton expertly, they broke ruthlessly and when the Blues did pose a threat, which they did on occasion, red shirts crowded them out.

For Everton the result was an absolute disaster in itself – 4-0 at Anfield for fuck’s sake – and also as an indication of where the present injury crisis has left the team.

This certainly represents the first big test of Martinez as an Everton manager and he may well need the help of the supporters to get through it. Let’s face it, we knew it wasn’t always going to be brown shoes and ‘Bring Me Sunshine’.

The style of play Martinez demands from his players is one that is more dependent on confidence and assurance than perhaps more traditional British methods and when it works, as we have seen for most of this season, it is spectacular. When it doesn’t though, as occurred at Wigan on many occasions and now at Anfield, well, it’s still pretty spectacular to be honest.

Aston Villa, one of the division’s best counter-attacking teams, will come to Goodison on Saturday and seek to exploit the same weaknesses as Liverpool and play on any residual fear and self-doubt that lingers from Tuesday night.

Everyone at the club – the group, if you will – has to pick themselves up then, as hard as that is in the wake of what was an absolute fucking massacre, and pull together again for the remainder of a season in which there is still so much to play for.

However, that said, until 3 o’clock Saturday:

JUST FUCK OFF EVERTON

Stevenage and the Derby and That

‘Don’t look down, lad. Don’t look down. I’ve got some good news for you and some bad news. The good news is that it’s not soft tissue damage…’

The tale of Everton’s trip to Stevenage should have been about how the Blues made a mockery of the banana-skin-seeking BT Sport cameras and put on one of those gulf-in-class-underlining performances that always seemed to be de rigeur for most of the Premier League apart from us. However, this professional and controlled display from Roberto Martinez’s Blues was overshadowed almost totally by a gruesome injury to Bryan Oviedo.

Playing in midfield and gamely tackling back, the versatile Costa Rican got his legs tangled up in the definitive ‘innocuous challenge’ – they’re often far worse than even the really ‘ocuous’ ones – and ended up on the deck. He tried to get up, his leg didn’t, and now he will miss the rest of the season and possibly the World Cup in Brazil.

Rotten luck and that ain’t no lie.

It’s a shame for anyone to suffer such a serious injury, but it seems particularly cruel on someone who has waited as long for their opportunity as cult hero Oviedo has. Now, footballing cult figures fit several archetypes, but they are mostly energetic yard-dogs, locally born hard cases, simple ale tanks or just good goalscorers who bite white people.  The smiling, Sapphic-haired Central American though has won over the Everton supporters for the way, when called upon after so long, he stepped up and seamlessly filled the boots of one of the club’s brightest stars, Leighton Baines.

Taking his sadly historic goal at Old Trafford smoother than a Kenco coffee bean then only cemented his place in the hearts and minds of Blues who all seem gutted for someone who appears to be a genuinely good egg too. He might not be, like, he might be a right little ratbag for all we know, but he always comes across as a fairly unassuming and pleasant sort – there are definitely plenty of players in the Premier League more deserving of having their leg kicked the fuck off. But we’ll probably get to some of them in the second bit.

Oviedo won’t feature for the rest of the season now, which is a genuine loss to Everton, but everyone hopes that he at least manages to get fit in time for the World Cup and comes back next season ready to carry on where he left off for the Toffees.

In better fullback news, the man whose metronome consistency kept the Latin livewire out of the first team for so long, the aforementioned Leighton Baines, has finally agreed a new four-year deal that should keep him at Goodison until he is 33. That’s the proverbial ‘coup’ because, as we never really tire of saying, Baines is just about the textbook definition of an Everton player.

‘Supports Liverpool and never won anything.’ Yes, very good at the back, very droll. If you have to have it explained then you will never really understand. He just is, possibly in the way that Steven Gerrard is more of less the definitive Liverpool player.

And you can take that however you please.

Everton did have far too much for Stevenage, despite the changes to the squad, with Steven Naismith leading the line well in the absence of the rested Romelu Lukaku. The Scot scored two goals, with the first teed up by the impressive full-debutant Aiden McGeady. Granted, it was only a Division One fullback the Irishman was skinning but considering he hasn’t played much first team football in the last six months he looked lively enough and full of running.

Substitutes Johnny Heitinga and Magaye Gueye – did you have him last goal as well? – rounded off the scoring and their mere inclusions underlined the sorry state the squad is in at present. And that’s a shame, because with our best team you genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if we went to Anfield and buried them like a pet, especially after watching their game against Aston Villa the other weekend.

With so many players missing though, you can’t have the same level of belief. A load are said to be borderline in terms of fitness, but even if they can patch up the likes of Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar, will they be sharp enough to shine in what is a pretty tough ground for any side, never mind us?

Having said all that, despite the dent to our ambitions caused by all the injuries we still probably go with more belief than ever simply because of what’s gone before this season. The confidence that the players have and the style of football we employ under Martinez are what saw us completely outplay the Reds for long periods at Goodison, for instance, as well as also beating Chelsea there before winning away at Manchester United and then terrifying the life out of Arsenal at the Emirates when almost everyone still believed that they might actually win the title this season.

In short, nobody really has a clue of what to expect from this game. Anything seems possible under Martinez – you wouldn’t be at all surprised if some youngster like John Stones was forced to play and had an absolute stormer, while Lukaku, who must be due a decent game, could have Liverpool’s centre-halves looking over their shoulders more warily than Linda Nolan on Top of the Pops. On the other hand, their front two are clearly a genuine danger for anyone, with mantrap molars in particular proving particularly troublesome for even the sturdiest Blues’ defences since he’s been there. Therefore it’s certainly no great stretch to imagine him running riot against any makeshift back-line.

It’s undoubtedly an intriguing game then, because are so many new variables after years of these games having a fairly settled pattern, but whether it is ‘the biggest derby in years’ as it is being billed seems questionable. With so many points still to play for, and plenty of matches remaining against the division’s other top teams, nothing will be settled on Tuesday night, whatever the outcome.

So then, with all that to reflect on, and in something of a break from tradition, we leave the final words to none other than smoky-eyed shite-spieler Mr Brendan Rodgers.

‘When I came in here Everton had finished above Liverpool and last season finished above us also.

‘Everton’s basis is a good defensive record, still stable from what they have been over a few years – we are a team who have upped the ante in terms of our offensiveness.’

Everton 3 Liverpool 3

lukaku liverpool

‘These are nothing special. The only thing we have to fear here is just being typical Everton’.

Five minutes later Philippe Coutinho is left completely unmarked at a corner and typical Everton are a goal down. However, rather untypically for modern derbies the Blues went on to batter Liverpool for most of the first half and were level only three minutes later. Kevin Mirallas, who had his best game of the season so far, reacted quickest to poke the ball into the roof of the net when a Leighton Baines free-kick broke in the six-yard box.

Everton were all over them and their Chris Isaak-nosed goaly, Simone Mignolet, had to make some excellent saves especially to deny Romelu Lukaku and the inspired Ross Barkley.

On 19 minutes though, a rare Liverpool foray out of their half saw them win a free kick that Luis Suarez, with his grid like a thrift store chess set, curled around Everton’s shonky wall and into the bottom corner of the Gwladys Street goal.

The Blues genuinely played some great, quick, incisive football – as good as they have since the first half against Newcastle United – but were infuriatingly undone by neglecting the absolute basics.

Again, typical Everton.

Much was said after the game about a challenge by Mirallas where he went in studs first and caught Suarez just above the knee. The Belgian only received a yellow card despite their physio trying to petition for the reinstatement of the birch, the gobby tit.

Two things about the Mirallas challenge then. Firstly, maybe Liverpudlians would find it easier to accept if they just view it as a post-dated foul from the game when Suarez got Jack Rodwell sent off for a great tackle.

You’re welcome.

Secondly, and most pertinently, the squealing rat’s had it coming for a while.

At half time then Everton went in 2-1 down despite controlling the majority of the game. Things changed though five minutes after the restart when Baines had to be replaced by Gerard Deulofeu. Gareth Barry dropped to left-back and Barkley had to come deeper, as a result Liverpool started to get into the game more in midfield where they had been overrun previously, but as they pressed forward that actually saw more opportunities open up for Everton on the break.

Still, they should have been 3-1 up when Suarez did that horribly effective ‘run straight at the defenders’ thing which sees the ball pinball around off knees and shins. This time it broke for Joe ‘remember him?’ Allen who inexplicably side-footed a sitter wide of the Park End goal.

It was the best miss in a derby since Steve McManaman tackled Karl-Heinze Riedle in front of the same goal in the Danny Cadamarteri game.

The game began to get increasingly stretched and frantic – the atmosphere was great for an early kick off – but Everton kept wasting their opportunities. Deulofeu was the worst culprit when put clean through by ‘shouldn’t have even been on the pitch’ Mirallas. All the clips of the young Spaniard playing for Barcelona B or the Spain under-21s show him continually racing from the halfway line and contemptuously slotting, but lo and behold when given the big stage he weakly shot straight at Mignolet.

An already mad game just got even crazier in the final 20 minutes, starting with Everton’s equaliser. Lukaku, who was having a relatively poor game – he made life far too easy for Daniel Agger – smashed a free-kick that deflected off the Liverpool wall and drew another good stop from Mignolet. Mirallas fed the ball back into the box though, James McCarthy failed to connect with it but Lukaku side-footed home despite Mignolet getting his hand to the shot.

At the other end Suarez headed point blank at Tim Howard as we all waited for the net to bulge, and then Everton took the lead. Mirallas – him again, the dirty get! – took a decent corner from the left and Lukaku got up at the near post and planted home the classic Everton centre-forward’s header.

Yowzer.

Everton just had to hold on for the remaining eight minutes or so then to complete a sensational comeback. Clearly they didn’t.

As soon as Steven Gerrard positioned the dead ball yards away from where Sylvain Distin’s raised foot brushed Victor Moses’s head, you knew we were in trouble. The crying-faced get has slowed down alarmingly but he still delivers a great free-kick and this one only had to nick off Daniel Sturridge’s barnet to leave Howard powerless to keep it out of the net.

It could have been even worse though, as Howard had to block Suarez’s rasper at the near post and Moses headed a great chance over the bar. Conversely, the Blues were on the attack at the final whistle, frantically trying to work an opening only for the excellent McCarthy’s shot to get blocked and balloon into the stand.

There’s not really a great deal to add as you will have already heard all the superlatives about just what an entertaining game it was. That’s partly down to the attacking strengths of both sides, but also because of their defensive weaknesses.

The moral outrage about off the pitch stuff seems more low key than in previous seasons. They had some stupid flag with a cake on it that someone had spent far too much time and effort on, while we sang one chorus of ’Brendan Rodgers, your son is a nonce’.

Pretty tame really.

Going back to the football, when we play like this we are one of the most ‘fun’ teams in the league and it’s hard to even get too annoyed with them for all the stupid mistakes.

Liverpool Preview

HMS TINF

Ahoy hoy!

It’s been a while. International breaks are normally an absolute nuisance but it’s allowed This Is Not Football some valuable time to find a way around the stringent anti-cussing rules on Newsnow. Some drastic action was required and in the end we bought a tramp steamer down at the docks, had it kitted out and now we are publishing this from the relative freedom of international waters.

Life on the ocean waves isn’t for everyone, but it certainly helps if you have an experienced crew. Just like on Captain Pugwash (don’t bother with an exasperated comment, we know it’s an urban myth, Poindexter) we are ably supported by a cast of salty sea dogs with ever-so-slightly rapey names. There’s Seaman Encrusted of course, Teabag the cabin-boy, and, er, Roy Harper. Which is awkward.

We’re glad to be offshore this week because as everyone knows, the build-up to the derby is always excruciating. Except it isn’t any more, is it, really? ‘Derby week’ essentially comprises of a series of done-to-death memory lane bits in the Echo, some half-hearted opinion bits by a couple of ex-players or managers who conclude that the team that keeps calmest will prevail, and some interviews with the respective managers. And with all the will in the world, these two seem to be decent enough coaches but you are going to struggle to get either to ‘stoke the fires’ ahead of Saturday’s ‘clash’.

Obviously Roberto Martinez is just super-smiley and nice and probably has massive, massive respect for Liverpool as a football club and as an institution when you think about all the great players they have had down the years and all that they have achieved in the past and the outstanding individuals that they have now in their group and what was the question again? And say what you like about Brendan Rodgers – such as the fact that he has a parsnip for a nose, wears a pair of bedraggled fingerless gloves and a piece of rope as a belt and lives in a hedge – say that if you like, but in terms of Liverpool managers he is one of the least offensive. Possibly the weirdest – good lord he is one odd individual in his Charlie Seger suits and Rimmel of London kite – but he doesn’t really go out of his way to court controversy or have digs at opponents.

Incidentally, does no one else chortle when Rimmel adverts promise ladies ‘thick lashes’? As offers go that’s certainly more alluring than a free makeup bag.

Anyway, it’s not just Rodgers who seems a bit low-key though, because in truth is anyone quite as bothered by Liverpool as a whole as they used to be? After the original Yanks shafted them and it became clear to even their worst swivel-eyed Jihadis that they really are just another club like any other, with no divine right to success, they became almost humanised, like when you follow a monstrous school bully home and secretly spy through a knot-hole in a wooden fence and see him being beaten by a cruel, drunken step-dad.

You still think he’s a little shitbag but you kind of understand why. And you certainly don’t fear him any more.

Both clubs seem to be on the up at the moment, in terms of their recent histories anyway, and there’s an air of relative optimism about both of them, but the majority of supporters on either side of the divide have witnessed enough false dawns that they retain a certain degree of perspective.

The two clubs, separated by only three points in the table,  have both produced some excellent performances and played some decent football at times, but a couple of games, such as ours at Manchester City and Liverpool’s trip to Arsenal have served as reminders that there is still a gap to be bridged between the Champions League teams and the rest.

Liverpool’s relative revival seems to be since they adapted from over-playing at the back and started getting the ball quickly into the feet of their two outstanding strikers, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez. For much of his early career the former struggled to hold down a place at clubs whose massive squads meant he never got the chance to play through an indifferent spell. We’ve said it before but there can be such a thing as too much competition for places – players generally need to get a run of games without constant threat of being axed if you want to see the best of them and that’s what Sturridge has at Anfield, and they are reaping the benefits. When he’s off form though he is one right greedy, blind-alley-shoot-from-anywhere merchant, and hopefully that’s the case on Saturday, as we don’t want to see him turned and running at Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka.

It’s not just the centre-halves who need to be alert though – a lot of the work keeping their front two quiet will fall to Gareth Barry and James McCarthy. At the Emirates Mikel Arteta was brilliant at anticipating the through-balls being tucked into them, stepping out, killing the danger and launching counter-attacks.

Obviously Sturridge is a danger then, but we can’t really discuss Liverpool without at least a few words on his ‘strike partner’ Luis Suarez.

Oh, Luis.

Luis, Luis, Luis, Luis, Luis.

Luis Suarez, with your face like a scrapped piano.

The ludicrously talented Uruguayan could only be more of a scoundrel if he held a cloak across his face and his every speeded-up move was accompanied by frantic piano playing. Love him or hate him, and let’s face it everyone fucking hates him, he is the most morbidly fascinating player in the Premier League. Like post-Buster Douglas Mike Tyson you can’t take your eyes off him because he seems capable of doing just about anything.

The thing is, pundits will constantly tell you, if you take away the nasty edge to his game he wouldn’t be half the player he is. And when you think about it, all the greats: Michel Platini, Lionel Messi, Pele, Johan Cruyff, the list goes on. What did they all have in common?

All racist man-eaters.

He never got the move he wanted, and indeed tried to force in quite undignified fashion in the summer, but you can’t really deny that since returning to the side he has given his all in much the same way as Leighton Baines for Everton since his less public request to move to Old Trafford was knocked back. It will be interesting to see whether both players finish this season where they are, with the press seemingly convinced that Baines will finally be departing. The fact that there seems to be no real effort to sort out a new contract with the lovable left-back as well would indicate that perhaps he has made his position perfectly clear about where he sees his future. As for Suarez, there is talk of Real Madrid being in for him in January, but if Liverpool managed to hang onto him in the summer against the odds you can imagine they would fancy their chances of getting him to stay until the end of the season in order to give them the best chance of securing the Holy Grail of fourth place.

That last bit was complete conjecture in order to round off a point and a paragraph that was really going nowhere at all.

One of the more intriguing aspects of this derby is simply the fact that the Blues will go into it and attempt to out-pass Liverpool, something that almost never happens. Even with decent Everton teams you always feel that the onus is on us to try and nullify them first and foremost, and pressurise them into making mistakes. There have been a few notable exceptions down the years, but overall there’s nearly always a feeling that if we win it will be mainly down to hard graft and a big centre-forward.

On Saturday that won’t be the case. Martinez will send his team out to play the way they play, from the first whistle knocking the ball about as if we are winning 2-0. It will make a refreshing change, although the big fear, clearly, is that they – and let’s face it, we mean Suarez – will be able to pressurise the defenders into making mistakes in dangerous areas.

At the other end though, Liverpool’s defence is nothing to write home about- unless of of course it’s a postcard saying ‘Mum, Martin Skrtl’s shit’. Everton certainly have enough quality players in forward positions to give them problems, especially if the two Belgians, Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku, have the great 90 minutes that they are overdue.

Again, that was one of those ‘not really got a point here’ moments, to be honest.

Right then, that’s nearly it, the seas are getting a bit choppy here and apparently we have a couple of coastguard frigates off our starboard bow. Apologies if we start to lose the sig…

…kin’ annoying this. I told you to get decent gear. You’ve made us look like right ama…

…Oi! Get off my fuckin…

…Roy and Teabag? They’ve been gone for…

…ollocks…

…me look like like a right cun…

…Mayday! Mayday!…

Hang on, I think we are back on. Mayday. This is Echo Foxtrot Charlie Number Nine. We are being illegally boarded by representatives of Newsn

…rrect. The news aggregation website. Aggreg. AGGREGATION! ALPHA GOLF GOLF ROMEO…

…Roy, Roy. Zip your kecks…

…dcast the final message for Saturday while we jettison all these swear…

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