Luis Garcia 32
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Liverpool kept alive their dreams of snatching the fourth Champions League spot from rivals Everton by winning a sensational Merseyside derby at Anfield.
Rafael Benitez's side had Milan Baros sent off and lost Fernando Morientes, Dietmar Hamann and Stephen Warnock to injury but held on to cut the gap between the two clubs to four points.
Ahead through Steven Gerrard and Luis Garcia at the break, it was a battle for survival from then on, but they claimed the points and subsequently reclaimed fifth spot from Bolton.
Although Everton mounted a ferocious siege, Tim Cahill's goal to pull one back was all they had to show for their efforts.
It is now going to be a test of character and nerve right to the wire between these two rivals, with the outcome totally unpredictable.
With so much at stake this was never going to be a gentle affair. Two thunderous tackles by Gerrard on Lee Carsley and Alessandro Pistone in the opening minutes set the standards for this 201st Mersey derby.
Referee Rob Styles tried to allow the game to flow, but poor tackles by Cahill on Warnock and then Luis Garcia on Kevin Kilbane tested this approach by the official.
Warnock never really recovered from that blow to his ankle, and the youngster was replaced by Antonio Nunez, which meant a Liverpool reshuffle with John Arne Riise shifted to left back and Luis Garcia forced to switch to the left flank.
Liverpool, however, were getting closer to a breakthrough. Luis Garcia hooked over after Nigel Martyn had half punched away a Baros cross, before Tony Hibbert was penalised for bringing down the little Spaniard on the edge of the box.
The incident upset Everton, who surrounded the fallen midfielder claiming he had gone down to easily. But in all the tension, Gerrard remained cool and when the free-kick from Hamann was pushed to him, the Liverpool skipper guided the 18-yard effort into the bottom left hand corner.
After 32 minutes minutes it was two. Morientes lashed a stunning, dipping 30 yarder that caught Martyn a yard to far forward. The Toffees keeper stepped back, could only push the ball onto the bar before falling into the net to watch Luis Garcia rush in to head home.
Hamann then went down clearly damaging an ankle and limped off. David Weir was booked for a foul on Baros, Yobo cautioned for cutting down Nunez while Morientes was soon to limp away with a thigh injury.
Liverpool had to use up their remaining substitutes to bring on Igor Biscan for Hamann and Vladimir Smicer for Morientes with the atmosphere deteriorating alarmingly.
Next into the book was Leon Osman for a foul on Baros in first-half injury time, before Carsley clipped a free kick over the bar.
Everton brought on James Beattie for Yobo at the break, the need for greater penetration blatently obvious.
But Baros had the chance to settle the whole affair when Stubbs trod on the ball and fell over, allowing the Czech Rebublic striker to race clear into an open half. But as he approached Martyn, he delayed his shot and allowed Hibbert the chance to make a great saving tackle in the box.
Everton's next tactical move was the most obvious, with Duncan Ferguson coming on up front in place of Bent as they pressed to get back into the match.
Baros again could have finished the game. He fought his way clear of Weir's grabbing hands, Styles playing advantage, but he allowed Martyn to deflect the effort wide.
Weir had left Baros in a heap on the left touchline before the striker snapped and got himself sent off for his next tackle, launching himself into Stubbs as the Everton man cleared. Referee Styles showed an immediate red card and Liverpool were down to ten men.
Inside four minutes Everton had pulled one back. Ferguson won a header and Cahill lashed the ball inside Jerzy Dudek's left hand post. Steve Finnan was booked, Watson replaced Pistone and Hibbert was booked for a foul on Smicer. But the home side clung on and the whole side, including Benitez hugged each other in the centre of the pitch at the end, showing how much it meant to the Anfield men.
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Liverpool Dudek, Finnan, Carragher, Pellegrino, Warnock (Nunez 21), Luis Garcia, Hamann (Biscan 40), Gerrard, Riise, Baros, Morientes (Smicer 43).
Subs Not Used: Hyypia, Carson.
Sent Off: Baros (77).
Everton Martyn, Hibbert, Stubbs, Weir, Pistone (Watson 84), Yobo (Beattie 45), Osman, Carsley, Cahill, Kilbane, Bent (Ferguson 55).
Subs Not Used: Wright, Naysmith.
Booked: Weir, Yobo, Osman, Hibbert.
Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).
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