Suarez (62), Carroll (87)
My, my what goes around comes around. Before this game the vultures were circling, ready to heap more misery on Kenny Dalglish for recent poor form, his signings and for not being nicey nicey to those media boys! Then there was Luis Suarez and you know what which, in fairness, as gone a bit quiet as Andy Carroll now appears to be the whipping boy for not living up his fee and banging in a hat trick every week!
All three played a pivotal part in yesterday’s victory which was, as a result, ironic as much as it was sweet. It was a tense game, the fact that two of the goals were down to mistakes said it all. The plot reminded me of the 1986 final with Everton dominating at the start but not making it count, allowing us back into it to eventually take over and finish as the stronger side. The result, until Andy Carroll’s back header in the 87th minute, was always in doubt and the singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was a song of relief as well as celebration.
Kenny revamped his back four bringing in Agger and Johnson and leaving out Enrique. He also went for Carragher’s experience and moved Agger to left back. As expected Maxi, despite his two goals on Tuesday, missed as the usual suspects returned. I was pleased for Spearing as a Liverpool man (well he’s from the Wirral) starting in this game but was slightly surprised that, despite his indifferent form recently, Enrique wasn’t given a run, playing Agger at left back seemed to be an unnecessary gamble?
I don’t know if it was the occasion, because it was all Liverpool or seeing Gary Ablett’s family in the stand but the minutes silence for the 96 had more significance and emotion than usual.
It was a good start with Carroll making a nice run into the box before checking back to set up Spearing who should have done better with his skied shot. Everton replied with a Baines free kick onto the roof of the net after Agger had felled Jelavic. Later Skrtel had a decent shot on target after we had fluffed a free kick. Jelavic then had an over head kick that Jones collected easily.
All in all however, it was scrappy, nervy stuff and it was therefore appropriate that the first goal came from a mistake. Agger and Carragher, as if they’d only just been introduced to each other, played a game of “after you”, “no after you” in dealing with a lose ball. Carragher eventually took the initiative and cleared straight into Cahill. The ball then bounced into Jelavic’s path who made no mistake. Despite a suspicion of off side it was a bad start from two experienced players. The result of playing Agger out position? Surely not, this was basic, schoolboy stuff, if in doubt smack it out?
After that we tightened up and gradually began it make some inroads into Everton without, admittedly, too much success. Johnson began to get down the right flank however, his crosses were woeful. Suarez was a constant irritant which resulted in yellow cards for Distin and what appeared to be a running feud with Heitinga. Nonetheless it was a case of “must do better” as Everton, buoyed by the goal, were happy and confident enough to sit back and take their opportunities on the break whenever they presented themselves.
The second half gave us the opportunity to hit back early. Downing crossed from the right and Carroll somehow contrived to miss the target with a header from around six yards out. It was a shocking miss, a howler, all he had to do was get it on target and it signalled the warming up of Bellamy and Kuyt. Just as I was beginning to think it might not be our day we got the break we just about deserved.
Disitn picked up the ball in the Everton half and, with Suarez looming, rather than play it down the line, or smack it into the stands, he opted to pass back to Howard. The back pass was woefully short Suarez seized on it and, despite the onrushing Howard and the attentions of Heitinga, kept his head to coolly knock it home.
The goal seemed to galvanise us and knock Everton back. Carroll was presented with another chance only for Suarez to get in the way! Johnson cut inside and fired straight at Howard and then Carroll again was unlucky not to score after nice sidestep to create the chance. On the other hand Everton, after the goal, became more expansive and began to push forward. Then, with extra time looming, Kenny played his ace card.
Bellamy was wheeled on for the last ten minute to give Everton something to think about, if nothing else his pace would test tiring legs? He was at it straight away putting Osman under pressure and causing him to concede a corner. Although this came to nothing it eventually ended up with Coleman upending Gerrard on the left. Bellamy swung the free kick in and Carroll, rising to knock it in with the back of his head and score his second last gasp winner in a week, proved that perseverance has it’s own rewards.
For Carroll it was small personal triumph, a good week in what’s been a difficult season. Sometimes he seems to be taking two steps forward and one step back but perhaps we are gradually seeing the green shoots of progress which we can apply to the club as whole? After the game Kenny said
“It is called a work in progress. We have said that before and there is no need for us to change. After the Carling Cup I said we are not the finished article and we are saying the same thing now.”
Something that everyone should remember but at the moment I don’t care what the owners or anyone else thinks, reaching our second cup final of the season IS progress and the experience and taste of more silverware, should we prevail, will only accelerate the improvements.
Walk on… and least we forget, on today of all days, justice for the 96.
Liverpool: Jones, Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Skrtel, Gerrard, Henderson, (Maxi – 75′ ), Downing (Bellamy – 84′ ), Spearing, Suarez, Carroll Substitutes: Gulacsi, Jose Enrique, Kelly, Maxi, Shelvey, Kuyt, Bellamy
Everton: Howard, Baines (Anichebe – 88′ ), Heitinga, Distin, Neville, Gibson, Cahill, Osman, Fellaini, Jelavic, Gueye (Coleman – 68′) Substitutes: Hahnemann, Hibbert, Jagielka, Coleman, Stracqualursi, McFadden, Anichebe