|Saturday 31st January 2004
LIVERPOOL 0-0 EVERTON
|After this game: Pos 5th Pl 23 Pts 34|
|MATCH REPORT - Liverpool 0-0 Everton|
Everton fans left Anfield singing after inflicting a serious, if not fatal, blow on their bitterest rivals' bid to qualify for the Champions League.
For Everton it was another precious point in their quest to haul themselves away from a possible relegation fight, and they showed tremendous desire and defensive bravery to withstand a near non-stop second-half Liverpool barrage.
Everton had several first-half chances, Sami Hyypia could have been sent off for a last-man clip on Tomasz Radzinski while Nigel Martyn was outstanding throughout.
Liverpool knew a point was not good enough, though Newcastle were also held at Birmingham. And even though they can look to a tremendous display by Steven Gerrard and a shot against the post from their skipper, this was desperately-needed points squandered.
Jerzy Dudek also had to produce heroics at times, but it was two second-half efforts headed off the Everton line that finally broke the home side's hearts.
It was a tremendous match, full of all the good things in English football. And even though it only included one booking, the pride and passion was always there.
So too was Everton's tremendous defiance. They deserved their point.
Teenager Anthony Le Tallec got his first taste of the Merseyside derby for Liverpool while Everton were forced to play Alessandro Pistone in central defence because of Dave Unsworth's back injury.
Both keepers were in constant action, with Martyn tipping over a Dietmar Hamann volley before Dudek needed to dive bravely at Duncan Ferguson's feet after a clever move involving Wayne Rooney and Thomas Gravesen.
Liverpool had started well with some clever, neat inter-changing, but Everton's more robust style soon had them in the game, and only a bodycheck by Hyypia stopped Rooney in full flow.
The chances continued to flow. Alex Nyarko tested Dudek from 25 yards before Tony Hibbert's ball put Radzinski clear, but the Canadian allowed Dudek the faintest touch and the chance was lost.
Everton started to find the gaps and Gravesen cut in from the left, went round Stephane Henchoz and saw his 12-yard low shot blocked by Dudek's legs.
Gerrard dominated midfield, and one surging run saw him unleash a 25-yarder that flashed wide of Martyn's right-hand post.
The first moment of controversy came on 33 minutes when Hyypia looked to clip Radzinski as the striker was about to surge away from him, but referee Steve Bennett refused all Everton appeals for some action, Gravesen and Ferguson the most vocal.
The ball was fired to the other end, Michael Owen's touch put Gerrard clear in the box and it took another fine touch from Martyn to save the day.
On 37 minutes it was Martyn again, this time turning another Gerrard effort onto a post.
Four minutes from the break Everton hit back. Ferguson nodded on for Rooney to chip into the box to open up Liverpool and Ferguson arrived to nod wide from just eight yards.
A minute later Hibbert's cross was met by a powerful Stubbs header and Dudek turned it over with a spectacular save, and in the mayhem that followed a second moment of controversy saw Jamie Carragher look to handle in the box. Everton finished the half raging at referee Bennett, with some cause.
The raging pace continued after the break. Rooney got past three men and clipped a shot over the bar, while Gerrard cut in from the right to slam a left-footer inches wide.
Then Bruno Cheyrou, four goals in five previous games, missed a glittering chance of another when he flicked a header wide of the far post from Le Tallec's cross.
Liverpool's pressure was at last forcing Everton back. Naysmith hooked off the line from another Cheyrou header before Owen finally found some space away from Stubbs as he latched onto a Kewell pass, but he screwed his shot wide of the far post.
Martyn then made another fine block when Owen looked to get a faint touch on a swirling Gerrard free-kick.
But Liverpool were getting closer, and Hibbert somehow got his head in the way of a Le Tallec powerful header from Gerrard's corner.
In all this frantic Liverpool effort, Everton's response was a 25 yard Stubbs free-kick that Dudek turned round a post, but the visitors were by now constantly forced back, needing to defend heroically.
Carragher was next to test Martyn, lashing in a low drive from the left that the keeper turned over the bar with his legs. And that is where Liverpool's fight died.
They had been camped in the Everton half attacking the Kop end for much of the second period, but it was not enough to clinch the win they so desperately needed.
Liverpool: Dudek, Finnan, Henchoz, Hyypia, Carragher, Hamann, Gerrard, Le Tallec, Cheyrou, Kewell, Owen.
Subs Not Used: Luzi Bernardi, Murphy, Riise, Traore, Biscan.
Everton: Martyn, Hibbert, Stubbs, Pistone, Naysmith, Rooney (Watson 77), Gravesen, Nyarko (Carsley 58), Kilbane, Ferguson, Radzinski (Jeffers 73).
Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Clarke.
Ref: S Bennett (Kent).
BBC Sports' Ian Brown post-match verdict
Everton's keeper Nigel Martyn post-match verdict
All audio and video requires RealPlayer and is from the BBC unless otherwise stated.
Martyn's heroics defies Liverpool (The Independent)
Even Houllier enjoys the entertainment (The Observer)
Martyn repels Liverpool's tide (The Sunday Times)
|Match Report filed: 1st February 2004|