Dam, not the best outcome to mark this blog’s 500th entry however, the result was also not the sort to provoke Christian Bale like tantrums!
It’s always sad to go out of the cup, and to your local rivals, but perhaps there are wider concerns such as the injury to Gerrard and how much the long game has taken out of the squad for Saturday. Gerrard was forced to go off with an injury after fifteen minutes. Something genuine or a precaution with other games in mind? Whatever the case it is a supreme irony, given that Robbie Keane was packed off to White Hart Lane only a few days ago? The Keane factor was also there when looking at Torres. Every foul on the Spaniard seemed to take on extra significance, was it serious would he recover? Even if he was injured one wonders if Rafa would have played Keane!
Despite the rumours Rafa gave the game respect and named a strong line up. The only first pick to sit out was Mascherano. We made a decent start in which the main chance came from Alonso who fired just wide of Howard’s right post. It was certainly a more open game than the previous two, mainly due to Everton having a more adventurous line up, they moved Fellaini forward to join Cahill. However, Gerrard’s withdrawal seemed to change things but not in a positive way. Tackles and fouls rained in from both sides however, unlike last Sunday the referee was mindful of the occasion and used the yellow card sparingly preferring, on most occasions, to limit actions to a stern word or warning, the first half at least!
The second half saw more scrappy play, misplaced passes and niggly challenges causing the game to splutter rather than flow. Osman managed to hit a post and that was all there was in terms of real chances. However, it was never dull one always felt that something was going to happen, soon! Sadly it didn’t! As it progressed it looked like the game would be decided by a piece or luck or magic. Sadly our chances of producing something along those lines were severely limited by Lucas who, for the second time in three games, influenced the outcome through his clumsiness. This time it was a poor challenge on Lescott which earned him a second yellow card. As Lucas tried to find the Radox we seemed to settle for penalties Riera was scarified in favour of the more defensive Mascherano, perhaps he should have started instead of Lucas?
In extra time Everton, not surprisingly, laid siege to our goal trying to break us down – a reverse of the Anfield game? Osman’s shot was parried by Reina who then superbly denied a following up Gosling. Alonso was lucky not to join Lucas in the bath for a foul on Rodwell but the ref bottled it, thankfully! However, with minutes to go Van Der Meyde’s cross found Gosling who shimmied and shuffled and created enough space to poke it across Reina into the far side of the net off the post. We were out.
So, what comes around goes around. Just as Chelsea were ruing a sending off in Sunday so were we three nights later. Maybe it’s unfair to blame one person but our approach was definitely influenced by going down to ten men. Perhaps Everton deserved the game for being more positive towards the end but needs must? What else could we really do and what we, and Lucas, must do now is to forget this game and move on?
Finally I noticed the players were wearing black arm bands for Radio City / City Talk’s Phil Easton. Besides his pitch side announcement duties at Liverpool my best memory was being ensconced in my bedroom in the early 80s doing my homework whilst listening to “The Great Easton Express”. This was a really great show that, along with John Peel’s, seemed to be only one aimed my musical tastes. It was responsible for getting me into many new and up and coming rock bands be they on a local, national or international basis. Part of it’s appeal was Easton himself who seemed to be a man who, like Peel, had no side and only seemed interested in the music and not promoting himself!
Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Lescott, Baines, Osman, Fellaini (Gosling 52), Neville (Van der Meyde 106), Arteta, Pienaar (Rodwell 60), Cahill.
Subs Not Used: Nash, Yobo, Castillo, Jacobsen.
Liverpool: Reina, Dossena, Carragher, Skrtel, Arbeloa, Kuyt, Alonso, Gerrard (Benayoun 16), Leiva Lucas, Riera (Mascherano 80), Torres (Babel 101).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Agger, El Zhar.