There is something to be said about the kind of magic that can happen under the lights at Anfield. Even though it was not an European night as have been the primary called on midweek evenings in the past, it was something even more important for historical club struggling for consistency.
Liverpool went into Tuesday night’s 217th Merseyside Derby with the fear of suffering a fourth consecutive Premier League defeat. Their opponents, fierce city rivals Everton, were on a nine game unbeaten run in the league which had seen them earn vital victories over top clubs Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Everton manager David Moyes was on the eve of celebrating ten years in charge of the Toffees, while counterpart Kenny Dalglish was under a lot of pressure having suffered two straight defeats after winning the Carling Cup.
Earlier this week, Liverpool’s skipper Steven Gerrard issued a rallying cry in the Liverpool Echo for his team-mates to step up their game to end the club’s poor run of form.
As the game drew near and the Reds’ famous anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone|” rang from the Kop to the Shankly Gate you could feel the atmosphere in the stadium and also get the feeling that it was going to be a special night. However, at that time no one knew that the Reds’ skipper who had demanded his team-mates to raise their game was going to be the one to lead from the front. The old English saying of “Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man,” never has been more epitomized for the Reds than with Steven Gerrard’s performance on the night.
Gerrard had the first clear-cut opportunities in the game thanks to great play from Jose Enrique and Luis Suarez opening up a shot for the skipper, but his effort was well saved by Tim Howard and the rebound shot from Jordan Henderson was boldly blocked by Jack Rodwell. Andy Carroll came close with a header from a Stewart Downing cross in the opening half four, as the Reds looked to be creating the best chances.
Martin Kelly, who started as right-back ahead of the injured Glen Johnson, made the most of his chance as his marauding runs were of huge threat to the Toffees all night long. The youngster’s efforts were fruitful in the 34th minute, as he stormed through to fire a shot on goal that was parried by Howard and cleared as far as Steven Gerrard, who lobbed it brilliantly with his left foot over Howard and Phil Jagielka into the back of the net. The goal sent the Anfield faithful into a frenzy as the Reds went 1-0 up.
Everton had been starting to exert themselves on the matches and create some chances but the goal knocked them down. Martin Kelly continued to threaten the Everton defence and he could have made it 2-0 for the Reds just before halftime, but his shot from the right was a few inches wide of Howard’s far post.
The Toffees came out with a purpose at the start of the second half, but once again Gerrard found the back of the net, thanks to an assist from Luis Suarez that saw the captain blast a typical Gerrard goal in emphatic fashion. Carroll and Suarez both missed close chances in the following minutes as Liverpool looked to have the game well in hand.
Everton tried to get back into the game as David Moyes made a triple substitution by sending on Royston Drenthe, Leon Osman and weekend’s hero Nikica Jelavic. The substitutions made the game scrappier rather than flowing as the cards started to come out in the final twenty minutes.
But the night was not over yet and it had a perfect ending in store for Steven Gerrard. Gerrard and Suarez combined again and the Uruguayan assisted with a give-and-go that saw Gerrard beat Howard in extra time to end the night with an emphatic hat-trick.
It was a stunning display from Gerrard who exactly knew just how badly his club, the team, the manager and the fans needed a victory last night. The skipper became the first player to score a hat trick in the Merseyside Derby since Ian Rush did it 30 years ago — when Kenny Dalglish was still in playing for the Reds.
Following the match, Steven Gerrard was quick to be humble on the night, as he told Liverpool’s official site that Luis Suarez was the man who made it all possible.
To beat Everton is always special, so to get three goals is that little bit extra. But I have to give my teammates a special mention, especially Luis Suarez – he put two on a plate for me. It was a great team performance and a clean sheet – everything we wanted from the game, we got.
The Reds will now head into their FA Cup sixth round match against Stoke City in full confidence. Although, Liverpool remain well off the pace to have any chance of finishing 4th and getting that final Champions League spot as they are ten points behind 4th placed Arsenal.
The Reds have already guaranteed at least UEFA Europa League action next season by winning the Carling Cup but with 10 games to go and 30 points available there is always an outside that it all comes together. It’s very unlikely as there as been no consistency from the team this season but with Newcastle and Chelsea as the only clubs above them remaining on their schedule, it could be a wide open opportunity for the Reds to make the most of a potentially easier run in.
Seeing what can Gerrard, Suarez and Carroll can do when the three of them are all match fit to start in the same team at the same time should give the fans some hope.