David Prentice: Once again Everton FC fail to go for jugular
THE KOP'S newest taunt to their city neighbours highlights Everton's decade-and-a-half without silverware: 'Dry your tears, no trophy for 15 years.' If that hurt, it was another drought which concerned Evertonian sensibilities even more on Saturday night. It's 11 years now since Everton last won at the home of their neighbours - and it showed. The longer Everton go without a victory at Anfield, the harder the habit is to break. Everton's form since their last derby defeat in November has been increasingly impressive. Trips to Athens, Stamford Bridge and even The Emirates have been met with confidence, ambition, even a swagger. But when it comes to Anfield Everton retreat into their shell. Twice in recent years the Blues have enjoyed the advantage of an extra man for long periods of an Anfield derby. Twice, now, they have seemed reluctant to make that advantage pay. Better to sit and hold onto a point than open up a little and go for the jugular. It smacks of inferiority complex. Everton treat their annual visits across the park with a respect which isn't always warranted. One of their heroes, Graeme Sharp, previewed his radio show on Saturday lunchtime by describing the present Liverpool team as the worst he'd seen since he came down from Scotland 30 years ago. That might have conveniently forgotten a team put together by one of his old Scottish team-mates in the early 1990s, but you could see where he was coming from. Anfield isn't the intimidating arena of old. Heck. Even Reading came here recently and won. But that 11-year itch means Everton are more cautious, more reverential than they need to be - even against 10-men. The loss of Sotirios Kyrgiakos gave Liverpool an excuse to defend deep and use set-pieces to counter. Everton didn't have the wit, the creative ingenuity or the gung-ho bravado to break them down. Just two tip overs from Pepe Reina in 99 minutes of action - one from a free-kick - was a desperately poor return. Perhaps the circumstances conspired against the Blues a little. David Moyes was right when he suggested Everton had looked more threatening when it was 11 against 11. But with 10 against 11, Rafa Benitez set his side up superbly to defend diligently and grab what they could going forward. They grabbed what they could nine minutes after the interval and the matchwinner was Everton's approach in microcosm. Tim Howard and Phil Neville worried more what Dirk Kuyt might do rather than concentrating on what he actually was doing, and the Dutchman was allowed to stay goalside of the Blues skipper and flick a neat header beyond Howard. It was one of the few 'neat' moments of the match. Referee Martin Atkinson played a high risk strategy by allowing the players a little freedom with their tackling.
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