EVERTON V LIVERPOOL
The 204th Merseyside derby has been won by the Blues in superb fashion!
Tim Cahill, a player with a great habit of scoring in derby matches, and club record signing Andy Johnson with a brace guided the Blues to a superb 3-0 victory over their city rivals. This is a game that will live long in the memory of all Evertonians. It is the biggest derby victory over Liverpool at Goodison since 1909.
To add to the delight, the win gives Everton their best start to a season for 37 years - since the title-winning campaign of 1969/70.
Ten points from the first 12 available put the Toffees top of the Premiership, if only for a few glorious hours.
Everton netted twice in the first half as David Moyes got his tactics spot-on - and Johnson ended the day in the perfect way, latching onto a goalkeeping error by Pepe Reina in the closing stages to secure Everton's biggest Goodison win in a derby for 97 years.
Moyes started with Johnson as the lone striker and, as with the victory at Tottenham two weeks earlier, it was the striker's ability to get behind defenders and act as a superb outlet that paved the way for a fine result.
What a game the spritely forward had!
The visitors were hit twice by swift attacking moves that exposed holes in the Liverpool defence during the first period and he was there again in the dying seconds to inspire chants of 'Easy' from the home crowd.
At the other end, Tim Howard was on fine form, producing a couple of notable saves to ensure the two-goal cushion secured during a 10 minute period in the first half was never eroded.
Liverpool did their best to get off to the best possible start, with Robbie Fowler testing Tim Howard with a shot from distance after just nine seconds.
Andy Johnson burst through beyond Jamie Carragher in the sixth minute. The defender started two yards ahead of the Blues' man but he managed to reach the ball first - underlining the threat he poses with his quick feet.
Carragher did well to recover and block the eventual shot from a tight angle.
At the other end, Fowler was proving a hand full. It was his dummy which allowed Luis GArcia to dart into the area on 15 minutes but his low drive destined for the near post was gathered by Howard at the second time of asking.
That chance came during a period of the game in which the visitors were enjoying the greater share of possession after a brighter start in the opening 15 minutes from the Blues.
By way of responce Everton took the lead.
The goal came in the 24th minute and was the result of fine build-up play Johnson linked on the right with Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard's centre was flicked on by Lee Carsley and by-passed Carragher to fall for Cahill unmarked 10 yards out.
His first-time effort slid under Pepe Reina to the delight of the sun-soaked hoardes in the Gwladys Street stand behind the goal.
The goal makes Cahill the first Everton player in 102 years to score in derby matches in each of his first three seasons at the club.
The strike put the home side in a commanding position with more than an hour of the contest remaining.
In what was proving the most open and entertaining derby contest for a number of years, the home side had Howard to thank for maintaining the clean sheet on 30 minutes when he produced a brilliant one-handed save to divert a Garcia effort away from the top corner.
Gerrard, who had been lurking to try and net on the rebound following Howard's save from Garcia, fired wide from the edge of the box minutes later.
The midfielder was felled in the 34th minute by a challenge from Joseph Yobo which led to a caution for the Nigerian international.
Having troubled the Blues from outside the box, Everton proved what a potent force they are in their own right on 35 minutes when he latched on to hopeful ball forward down the right, sneaked in ahead of Carragher and sent a sweet finish under the body of the advancing Reina to send the Evertonians into delirium.
Liverpool did their utmost to claw something back before the break, but the central defensive combination of Yobo and Joleon Lescott was proving impressive for the home side against the threat of Crouch's remarkable height and Fowler's predatory instincts.
Indeed, although Liverpool fired in a host of shots during the opening period, there were very few from inside the area.
In an attempt to turn the tide of the match, Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez introduced Dirk Kuyt in place of Crouch just seven minutes after the restart to give the Dutch international his first taste of a Merseyside derby.
The contest was as open in the second period as the first, although there was added edge in the play of the visitors. The Blues did well to keep their cool and continued with their gameplan of utilising Johnson's pace to catch Liverpool on the back foot.
Indeed, the striker's hold-up play was proving a huge asset to the Toffees.
Howard's goal continued to be threatened sporadically by efforts from distance, with a drive from Steve Finnan on 62 minutes flashing inches wide of the upright and Gerrard doing likewise minutes later.
As an attacking force, Everton were looking sharp with the neat inter-play between Leon Osman, Arteta and Cahill supported by the graft in the centre of the park of Carsley and Neville.
It was Neville who set Osman scampering down the inside left of the Liverpool area with 20 minutes remaining. His great low cross was inches from being converted at the near post by Johnson.
Gerrard has a habit of netting in derby matches and he rifled a low effort against the base of the post in the 75th minute but it stayed out, much to the delight of the home fans.
Liverpool were reduced to 10 men in the latter stages of the contest, with John-Arne Riise having to hobble off with an ankle injury after the Reds had made their third and final substitution.
By that stage, there was a real party atmosphere inside Goodison as the home fans celebrated the first derby victory since Lee Carsley's glorious day of December 11, 2004.
But it got even better in injury-time. A strong drive from Carsley was fumbled by Reina and Johnson reacted quickly, heading the ball over the line for a 3-0 scoreline.