Just over 21 years ago, Kenny Dalglish resigned as Liverpool manager following a draw with Everton – or, more pertinently, following a harrowing couple of years in the aftermath of the Hillsbrough disaster. Now there is a small band of Liverpool fans who would like Dalglish to step down again for entirely different reasons – and membership of that band will, you suspect, swell if Liverpool are leapfrogged by Everton tonight, or even if they turn in another performance of similar rankness to that produced at Sunderland last weekend or on several other occasions during a season which, Carling Cup victory notwithstanding, Liverpool have generally looked as far away from winning the Premier league as at any time in the last two decades, and all that despite the lavish sums made available to the manager, sums so big that David Moyes can't even count that high. Dalglish, then, could do with a win tonight because, as he should know, it's not kit deals that are going to keep fans' faith in him.
You teams are in:
Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Enrique, Skrtel, Carra, Spearing, Gerrard, Henderson, Downing, Suarez, Carroll.
Subs: Maxi, Coates, Kuyt, Adams, Doni, Shelvey, Flanagan
Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Baines, Distin, Fellaini, Jagielka, Pienaar, Stracqualursi, Coleman, Rodwell, Anichebe. Subs: Mucha, Heitinga, Jelavic, Drenthe, Cahill, Neville, Osman.
Setting the tone:
"As an Everton fan I hate these days," blubs Duncan Smith. "So often there is pre match optimism followed by a cruel defeat, and I can never be sure if it it the blinkered blue in me that thinks we're robbed time and again by bad refereeing."
"I've somehow found myself at the ballet instead of biting my fingernails in front of the telly," confesses Gary Naylor. "It all seems rather distant from Tony Hibbert and co. Then again, it is The Nutcracker - so maybe not so distant after all."
"I am amazed that Liverpool's appointment of Dalglish hasn't worked out," gulps Hugh Collins. "On paper it looks perfect: the man hasn't worked in 10 years, his last job was a complete disaster, and his position at the club makes him essentially unsackable. There must be some imperceptible flaw there, but I can't see it."
"What's with the weakened teams?" blurts Duncan Smith. "Have both managers got one eye on the cup? Osman who was excellent at the weekend, Jelavic and Heitinga on the bench for Everton, Carroll and Downing playing for Liverpool?"
The teams are in the tunnel, preparing to enter the fray. "Regarding the Hodgsonesque kit deal defence," begins Peter Oh. "I was glad to see Warrior Sports sign the LFC shirt deal, and not just as an American. Personally I find the repetitive big name Adidas/Nike tripe quite boring (e.g., If you've seen the Liverpool home shirt, you've seen the Real Madrid third jersey) so an outsider like Warrior will likely provide a unique and fresh design that won't be conform to a template applied to dozens of other clubs. However, if I could trade the Warrior deal for a respectably performing Liverpool team, I'd do it in a heartbeat."
1 min: We have go. "Truly, if the all the theater mentions weren't bad enough, Gary Naylor is now live-MBM-emailing from the BALLET?!" squawks Ryan Dunne. "I gather that high classy entertainments like Wagner's Ring Cycle have all sorts of boring bits, so I imagine someone may have followed an MBM from an even more highfalutin' event or location. Perhaps we could have a competition as one of tonight's riffs? (am personally typing this from Glasgow so I probably won't win)
1 min: An inaccurate throw-out from Howard presents the ball to Henderson wide on the right. His ensuing cross proves an inaccurate as Howard's throw.
2 min: Suarez slips a cute ball through to Carroll, who lopes after it ... but Jagielka gets there first. The defedner's attempted clearance goes staright to Henderson, who again fails to make the most of his opponents;' generosity, shanking his cross out of play.
5 min: So far Liverpool have had most of the ball and Everton, save for a couple of misdirected pass, have been as rigid and tenacious as ever ... so the sides are pretty much cancelling each other out.
7 min: Fine play by Liverpool, who are then foiled by a fine save by Howard! Gerrard burst into the box and was found by a foxy pass from Suarez, who skipped past Rodwell and then tried to shoot low past Howard from 10 yards. The keeper plunged to his left to divert it away with one hand but the ball fell to Henderson, who seemed set to slam into the net from eight yards.. but Rodwell blocked his shot.
9 min: Liverpool are really starting to stretch Everton now, thanks to the speed of their passing and the fluency of their movement. Distin has just had to make a desperate clearance from a Downing cross.
10 min: Everton respond with some superb interplay between Baines and Pienaar, the former sprinting down the left and then dribbling past two defenders before cutting back to the Pienaar, who blazes over from 16 yards.
11 min: The Carroll-Suarez axis spring into action as the big Geordie flicks a Reina punt into the Uruguayan's path and Howard is forced to make another good save: but again Suarez is guility of less than ephatic finishing. He really should have almost 20 league goals already this season. "Well it's not quite as high falluting as the ballet but I'm typing this from the Sound Of Music just south of Glasgow<" reveals Martin Vivers. "But given that I'm the Lighting Designer and sat behind the lighting desk, it's a whole lot riskier!"
14 min: Fellaini dispossesses Henderson in midfield and releases Pienaar, who is causing lots of problems coming in from the left ... except on this occassion, as he botched his attempted pass to Stracqualursi. Henderson, meanwhile, needs to improve: his start has been so shaky it should be clad in denim and singing Green Door.
17 min: Distin has dealt well with most of the high balls towards Carroll but Suarez is proving far more slippery and radiates danger every time he gets on the ball. He's just one another corner following another wriggling run into the box.
20 min: After a bout of Liverpool possession Gerrard and Suarez eventually get in a mix-up, allowing Everton to clear.
22 min: Skrtel nuts clear a Hibbert cross. Henderson gathers and begins a canter down the right ... before mislaying an intended pass to Carroll.
24 min: Pienaar curls in a corner ... Reina comes to clear but his punch is straight out of Audley Harrison's textbook and provokes panic in the box. Liverpool eventually scramble the ball away.
26 min: The game remains frantic but is starting to fester as both teams struggle to break through each other. "Not sure if it counts as classy, but I'm here in Costa Rica wondering dozing off my lunchtime piña coladas," boasts Clive Jerram.
28 min: Hibbert burts down the right, leaving Jose Enrique trailing in his wake - yes, really - but his cross is defelcted behind for a corner. baines delivers, Anichebe's attempted flick-on goes in completely the wrong direction.
30 min: Suarez is through on goal .... but Hibbert slides in to tip the ball away from him, and the linesman decide to announce that the striker was offside anyway. "Tensions always run high on occasions like this," discloses Peter Doran. "I have never been able to watch, listen to, or even go to a Derby game. So I find that an evening spent sitting at the computer with my headphones on listening to Brian Eno's wonderfully calming Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks is enough to distance my mind from the action.
I can then pop back at full time knowing that whatever the result I have at least been spared the stresses, anger and arguments (not to mention the refereeing decisions)."
32 min: I like Henderson. He's dynamic and usually tidy. He's obviously not a £20m player but the price tag was not of his making. Tonight, however, he is having a poor game: he again over-hit a pass just now, aborting a promising Liverpool counter-attack.
GOAL! liverpool 1-0 Everton (Gerrard 34') An immaculate finish from Gerrard! Howard parried a shot from the overlapping Kelly, who then challenged Distin for the rebound, which broke out to Gerrard, some 16 yards out, on the right-hand side of hte box. Rather than blast, he dabbed a sutble left-footed lob over Howard and into the net! Now, let's see what Everton can muster by way of response to that.
37 min: That was better from Henderson, who taps a tidy ball into the path of Kelly, who again provided a good overlap down the right. Kelly bursts into the box and goes for goal again, but this time flashes his low shot just wide.
39 min: A meancing break down the left by Baines, who pings in a fine cross again. Stracqualursi meets it - even, meats it - but Reina's saves his 10-yard header with aplomb.
40 min: Another decent ball by Henderson, this time into Suarez's path. But Distin shows impressive strength and speed to prevent the striker from getting off a shot.
43 min: Liverpool have managed the game well since taking the lead, dominating possession and allowing Everton to gain no momentum that mioght lead to a comeback. But the Straqualursi chance a moment ago showed the game is far from safe. Meanwhile, that Peter Doran email seems to have riled more than a few of you, including Joe Shooman. "Football is all about the ups and downs, breathless tensions and visceral resolutions," booms Joe. "If you don't feel the pain you won't feel the release when things do go your way. I suggest Peter takes up dressage instead, although I spose the tension of whether a horse will walk slowly backwards correctly might do him in."
45 min: There will be one minute of added time, the game having featured none of the fouls and mayhem usually associated with this fixture.
Half-time: Liverpool just about deserve their lead, not least for the delightful way that Gerrard gave it to them. Suarez has also looked dangerous for the home team, and Spearing and, as the half wore on, Henderson have been useful in midfield. Everton looked dangerous at times, mainly through Pienaaar and Baines down the left. And it surely won't be long before they stick on Osman.
Chit-chat, possibly with an s: "Whoah! Hang on a minute Doyle! You're not getting away with that! [On 39 minutes] Every purveyor of football clichés knows that one can only finish with aplomb – one can't save with aplomb. It's just not allowed. Commentary School 101." - Nick Glynn
"If Peter Dorran is no fan of tension, can I suggest he avoids the music of My Bloody Valentine. 6 and a half minutes into a song - ARGH, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S GOOD, CHANGE CHORD!! Or something like that." - Matt Dony
46 min: The second half gets going, with the same participants as in the first.
47 min: Baines, driving forward anew, wins a freekick in a dangerous position down the left. He takes it (after Pienaar performs an utterly pointless decoy run) and Gerrard clears easily.
48 min: Solid defending by Kelly to prevent Baines from making another incursion down the left. But so far all of the youthful second half has been played deep in Liverpool territory.
Liverpool 2-0 Everton (Gerrard 51') Henderson won possession in midfield and then poked a smart pass through to Suarez, who sidesteps past the hitherto excellent Distin and, as he shapes to shoot, Gerrard comes surging in to take the shot himself - and smash it into the net from eight yards. No chance for Howard.
53 min: Suarez wriggles free down the left and, as Everton defenders converge on him, he nicks a pass through to Carroll, who should score .... but doesnt', tonking wide from five yards. The angle was not the best but it was still an excellent opportunity.
55 min: Downing crosses, Kelly lunges at it but can't divert it on target. As play switches down the other end, Pienaar cops a booking for a foul. "I've been wondering why you've kept on writing throughout the season that Suarez is 'a constant threat' when he almost never scores?" grumbles Ceci Marjakangas. "His finishing rate must be one of the worst in the league, surely? He may be a constant threat the same way as a man yelling through the window, or one waving his arms impotently at kids running on his nice lawn might be. Not in a way that made any real difference. Fernando Torres during his last weeks at Liverpool (not to mention his last, or any seasons) was a far superior player. On and off the pitch." He is a constant threat because he regularly unhinges defences; obviously he would be even more threatening if he improved his finishing.
58 min: Jelavic and Osman war warming up for Everton, who badly need them: as thigns stand they are not looking like getting back into this. "I'm on the darkened backwater streets of Lagos!" hurrash Nicholas Kingdrummer. "My vehicle's stuck in traffic & half my fellow drivers are out their cars catching the match on TVs in beer parlors while keeping an eye out for a gap in traffic to open up! Classy enough for ya?"
59 min: Fellaini clears a Gerrard corner to the edge of the area, whereupon Spearing launches a souvenir ball high into the Kop.
61 min: Everton should have scored! Baines, their most frequent source of danger, got in behind the defence down left and cut the ball back for Rodwell, whose low shot was cleared off the line - but the defender should not have been given the chance to clear: the shot was too soft.
62 min: Triple substitution by Everton: Coleman, Straqulursi and Anichebe off; Osman, Jelavic and Drenthe on.
64 min: Good move by Everton, again down the left, where most of their dangerous attacks have come even though Kelly is playing well (he's not getting much protection from Henderson). Fellaini served a nice ball to Jelavic, who shot into the side-netting - but it wouldn't have counted as the striker was offside.
67 min: Pienaar has continually got into great position tonight but far too often he has then goofed by choosing the wrong pass or badly executing the correct pass. Or shooting wildly.
70 min: Carroll pokes the ball through to Suarez who ... does what he has done so many times this season and shoots absurdly wide. He was clean through this time and and attempted to curl it around Howard with the outside of his right foot but it wasn't so much a banana shot as a rotten tomato.
73 min: Liverpool substitution: Henderson off; Kuyt on.
75 min: A cheer from Liverpool fans as the ref's whistle goes following a tumble by Carroll in the box. But it's not a penalty, merely a goal kick to Everton. "David Moyes is being feted for spending 10 years in charge at Everton and plaudits are coming from pundits and other managers," drawls Daniel Brooke. "But would 10 years with no silverware be celebrated like this anywhere else in Europe?" Well, apparently trophies and poitns aren't everything. Now if only Moyes could score a top kit deal ...
77 min: The changes have made no real difference to Everton as yet. Liverpool continue to manage the game well.
78 min: Downing aims a long diagonal pass to Suarez, who looks like getting to it before Baines, who thus drags him down just outside the box. The ref opts to show just a yellow. Gerrard, meanwhile, looks like he fancies a crack at a hat-trick ...
80 min: The freekick came to nothing as Liverpool tried an over-elaborate routine from the freekick and Downing's eventual shot was charged down by Osman.
84 min: Drenthe booked for wild late tackle on Downing.
85 min: Jose Enrique creeps up from left back and unleashes a respectable shot, which Howard gets down to save.
88 min: Valiant defending by Liverpool to prevent Everton from getting off a clear shot despite applying heavy pressure.
89 min: Drenthe attempts as desperate shot from 25 yards. That, too, is blocked.
90 + 1 min: As Hibbert is booked for kicking the ball away in frustration and Enriqué is booked for no obvious reason, Rodwell shanks an appalling effort wide from the edge of the area as Everton get a clear sight of goal for the first time in a long time.
GOAL! Liverpool 3-0 Everton (Gerrard 90+3') Drenthe slipped in midfield, allowing Gerrard to claim the ball and romp forward in familiar style. He slipped a ball through to Suarez, who could have gone for goal himself but wisely, given his finishing, wrongfotted the defender instead and knocked the ball back into the path of Gerrard, who slotted into the net from 12 yards!
Full-time: A deserved win for Liverpool, who thus remain top dogs on Merseyside and pull within two points off sixth-place Newcastle with 10 games to go. Gerrard tooks his hat-trick splendidly and there were also fine performances from Kelly, Suarez (apart from more shabby finshing) and Spearing. Everton had their moments but far too few of them and looked impotent up front despite decent build-up play, usually involving Baines, Pienaar or Fellaini. Pressure off Dalglish for now, and on to Moyes apparently. "That's it - I'm throwing his stuff into the street," bareks John Fitzgerald. "After 10 years we're over. Not starting with Osman or Jelavic is the final straw. David - we're finished. And yes, I have been texting Brendan Rodgers - so what?"