Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was the decisive figure in the 217th Merseyside derby, scoring a hat-trick to hand Kenny Dalglish’s side their first league victory since January. The Reds were without their skipper for Arsenal’s 2-1 victory at Anfield, while the 31-year-old came on as a late substitute in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light. Despite the midfielder’s frequent injury problems, his influence on the pitch is yet to dwindle, and he was at the heart of a swashbuckling Liverpool performance. The England international was on hand to pounce on Tim Howard’s parry from Martin Kelly’s low drive, delicately chipping the ball over the stranded Toffees goalkeeper before half-time. Gerrard’s return injected a renewed belief throughout the Liverpool side, and he added a second with powerful shot past Howard, before completing his hat-trick on his 400th league appearance with a close-range finish to narrow the gap on fourth-placed Arsenal to 10 points.
Dalglish attempted to address Liverpool’s much maligned problems in front of goal by starting Andy Carroll and Luis Suárez together for the first time in three games. The Reds manager parted with £57.8m to bring the pair to Anfield in January 2011, but there are few signs of a blossoming partnership. Carroll, best described as an old fashioned English forward, lacks the foresight and movement to link up with his artful Uruguayan strike partner. Whilst the 23-year-old’s aerial ability does offer an added avenue for the Reds to explore, his overall contribution to Liverpool’s cause in the Merseyside derby was very little. Dalglish would be best served locating a more cultured, prolific and perhaps a continental option to work as a foil to Suárez’s trickery and movement.
Rafael Benítez handed Martin Kelly his Liverpool debut against Lyon in the Champions League in 2009, and the 21-year-old was named man of the match in an impressive performance at right-back. Kelly has made only a stuttering impact at Anfield since, hampered by Glen Johnson’s arrival and several injuries. However, in Tuesday’s derby, Kelly was back to his very best, patrolling the right wing and offering Jordan Henderson width going forward. The defender’s effort in the 34th minute was struck with such venom that Howard was only able to parry the ball into the path of Gerrard, who duly broke the deadlock. Kelly continued to surge forward after the interval as Liverpool looked to punish the visitors further, and he was unlucky not to open his Reds account. Gerrard’s hat-trick heroics meant Kelly’s display was somewhat overlooked, but he will provide Johnson with healthy competition for the right-back spot.
David Moyes will celebrate 10 years at Goodison Park on Wednesday – and despite a disappointing showing in the derby, Everton supporters paid tribute to the Scot at Anfield by chanting his name at regular intervals. The 48-year-old has transformed the Toffees from a side regularly battling to avoid relegation, into a club challenging for a place in Europe. With a limited budget, Moyes has placed his faith in youth, while showing a shrewd eye in transfer market, and the gap between the two Merseyside clubs has been narrowed during his reign. For many, Moyes has earned the right to manage at one of the league’s top clubs – perhaps a suitable replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
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