Captain Fantastic - Our Three Goal Hero
Last night was one of those nights that will forever remain in the memory of Liverpool Supporters. It was of course the 99th Merseyside Derby and it was the turn of Anfield to be the hosts, but would Liverpool find the form that had been missing since the Carling Cup Final.
It was also the evening before the 10th anniversary of David Moyes arrival into the Everton hot seat. A hot seat that has seen him work miracles with very little money made available for players. Now up until last night David, had never won a Derby game at Anfield and winning the 99th would have been the icing on the cake, not only for his reign but it would also prove to the premiership, that when the going gets tough even without the funds needed you can actually get where you want to.
Question marks of course were hanging over the heads of the Liverpool team, who appear to have either let the Carling Cup go to their heads or quite simply had suffered a massive loss of confidence, because since that remarkable day three weeks ago, their performances have not been as good as they should have been. Now I know a lot of people and I am including Kenny, stated that they played well during the Arsenal game, the end product was missing. If you don't score then it cancels out the whole game.
Then there was the embarrassment of our game against Sunderland last Saturday. A game I personally labelled as inconvenience slotted into Liverpool Football Club's timetable. It was one of those games where the players simply did not turn up. There was no link up play, no determination and definitely no goals and yet another freak incident in the goalmouth that ensured victory went to Sunderland.
All these facts put together of course meant that the Merseyside Derby would be used to prove a point by both managers. Kenny, needed to prove to the watching football world that Liverpool were indeed improving and David, that the form his team had found over recent weeks was set to continue.
There was of course the small question of an FA Cup round in the future, which would have to be taken into account when deciding on who would play and who would be rested.
Everton took the precautionary route and left most of their best players on the bench. Liverpool took the only route possible considering their faltering league position and played a full strength team. The form book of course goes out of the window whenever there is a Derby game with all the home grown boys playing for their city and the emblems on their chest.
As with every Derby game, there is also the history of red cards and sending offs. The latest player to be hit by this was young Jack Rodwell of Everton, who fell victim to an overzealous referee. Thankfully common sense prevailed and the card was later rescinded. Would the 99th Derby be any different was down to Referee Phil Dowd.
What nobody knew before kick-off was that a certain young man would by the end of the evening, prove why in some quarters he is known as Captain Fantastic.
The evening itself started with the atmosphere building up several hours before kick-off as the supporters of both teams began to descend on the Anfield area of Liverpool. The pubs in the area were filling up fast with supporters of both teams and with voices in full flow the singing had begun. Singing that would transfer to the terraces once the entrance doors at Anfield were opened.
It did and with the stadium in full voice the teams entered into the fray and within minutes you knew that you had a fantastic game on your hands. Now I can only guess at what happened between the game on Saturday and kick off last night, but the team on the pitch was playing with a totally different mind-set.
Players who people had classed as rejects had suddenly found their feet and it was as though they had been playing as a unit for years not just a year. The passing and the movement was fantastic, so much so that Everton quickly found themselves lost and wondering whether there was any point in them taking part in the game.
Andy Carroll is one of those that I would class as a reject for the simple reason; he simple does not seem to be able to settle into the Liverpool. Last night though, I felt that I was looking at a different player. He was moving better and with a massive improvement in his timing, he was picking up passes much better.
Jordan Henderson is another, and I have said many times that I feel a spell in the reserves would benefit him and for a while last night I felt that perhaps that would be the case once again, but twenty minutes into the game, the nerves gave way to some wonderful runs and his confidence seemed to have finally find itself for the big occasion.
Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing are both local lads, who have progressed into the first team from the academy set up and what a credit they were to the first team last night. Now I know they have both been in the first team for a while, but how Martin Kelly never managed to find the back of the net on two occasions last night is one of those mysteries that will never be solved His movement and his defensive runs were magnificent and he deserves to be in the team every week. Jay Spearing last night also proved that he is improving by the game after having to step in and take the mantle from Lucas who is out for the season through injury.
The rest of the team played extremely well, but and again I don't know what has happened, but Luis Suarez seemed a lot happier last night. He was able to weave in and out of the Everton players without being bothered more than a couple of times. Yes he went down easily a couple of times, but so did several of the other players, so we will put that down to an overwatered pitch.
The game itself was played at an amazing pace from the moment Phil Dowd blew his whistle to start the proceedings. Everton seemed to be rather shell-shocked as the Liverpool players began to weave their way around the players. The speed of the ball and the way it was going was being determined by Stevie G who having returned to the midfield was showing everyone how it was done. So much so, that it was not long before he sent a fantastic ball straight into the back of the net.
Captain Fantastic had marked his return to centre stage and with his name being sung in full voice all around Anfield, he continued to play extremely well to ensure that Liverpool went into the dressing room at half time still in the lead.
It was at this point that Stevie gave us all a scare. He was seen hobbling around the pitch during the last ten minutes of the game and as the players made their way towards the tunnel at half time, his sock has been pulled down and his shin pad removed. Supporters and the media alike wondered if he would return for the second half. I have to admit tweeting one of journalists I know, and his answer was he felt perhaps Stevie would be taken off to ensure that he would be fit for Sunday.
But thankfully, Stevie appeared for the second half and for someone who appeared to be injured, his energy and his movement was fantastic. So much to so, that six minutes into the second half, Stevie did what Stevie does best and another wonderful volley found its way to the back of the net.
Everton were now shell shocked and with David Moyes deciding it was time to use the last throw of the dice he used his three substitutes in one go. Although the changes seemed to steady the Everton team for a while, they simply could not stop Liverpool who were now rampant. The football was an absolute joy to watch and if Andy, Luis and Martin had managed to get their balls into the back of the net the score would have been amazing.
By now of course Anfield was in full voice and all you could here was several choruses of Stevie and Kenny's name. Well-deserved of course because, we have a captain and a Manager who knows what Liverpool Football Club means to everyone.
With the match drawing to a close the usual last minute onslaught on the goal took place and Luis having picked up the ball passed it over to Stevie and the rest they say is history.
Stevie had proved that he will enter Liverpool Football Clubs history books, not only for his sublime football skills but for scoring a hat trick during the 99th Merseyside Derby. A feat, that puts him alongside another Liverpool hero Ian Rush.
I will finish by saying that having spent several hours thinking about it, I simply cannot think of the right words to describe Stevie, so I have taken a paragraph from David Maddock's match report, because, as he is a Liverpool supporter, I know he means every word.
"Even words, never mind statistics, fail to do true justice to his sublime talent...his audacious, magnificent hat-trick destroyed Everton and their manager David Moyes' 10th anniversary celebrations...It would be churlish to deny the genius of Gerrard after the single greatest derby display from a midfielder in a red shirt here in the past two decades."
©David Maddock - Trinity Mirror Group Newspapers.