Make no mistake, this was a battle rather than a football game, the 213th Merseyside derby going exactly according to tradition.
In-form: Dirk Kuyt nods his fourth goal in four Premier League games
Dismissals for Liverpool's Sotirios Kyrgiakos after 32 minutes andEverton's Steven Pienaar at the end meant there have now been 19 redcards in this fixture during the Premier League era.
Indeed, a less liberal referee than Martin Atkinson could easily have sent three off before the interval.
The record books will show Dirk Kuyt headed the only goal after 55minutes to extend Liverpool's unbeaten League run to seven games andpush Rafa Benitez's side right back in top-four contention. It was theDutch striker's 50th goal for the club.
What they won't show is that Kuyt collected his man-of-the-matchbottle of champagne with a bloodied cheek after being caught byMarouane Fellaini and was being pushed and pulled all over the place bygoalkeeper Tim Howard and defender Phil Neville as he scored his goal.
Kyrgiakos needed stitches in a badly-gashed leg for the challenge onFellaini that saw him sent off. Fellaini was carried off and needed anx-ray on his ankle before getting the all-clear, but he was equallyculpable for the shuddering 50-50 challenge between two heavyweightsand could have been sent off himself.
Marching orders: Referee Martin Atkinson shows Sotiros Kyrgiakos a straight red
Javier Mascherano was lucky to escape with his leg intact after Pienaar stamped his foot down on to the Argentine's shin.
Pienaar was only booked for that but justice was done when he waslater dismissed for barging into Steven Gerrard. The overdose ofblood-and-thunder might have offended purists who like their modernfootball sterile but Gerrard, whose corner set up the goal, loved it.
He had even got involved himself when his follow-through on a rakingtackle caught a prostrate Pienaar painfully on the shoulder.
Gerrard said: 'The referee was superb. He let tackles go. The fanscome to see commitment and fight. There were some mistimed tackles butwe are not complaining.
'We should enjoy this. We had to play most of the game with 10 menand showed passion, fight and commitment. Just what derby games are allabout.'
Everton boss David Moyes did not try to defend some of the more aggressive challenges on show.
'Kyrgiakos had to go. It was a two-footed tackle with both feet offthe ground. We have no complaints about Pienaar's red either, he wasfortunate to stay on the field for his earlier tackle. It was similarto a lot of derby games, feisty, which is why supporters enjoy them. Wewere at our best 11 v 11. We certainly didn't deserve to lose the game.'
Flying Dutchman: Tim Howard saves Dirk Kuyt's header
Both sides entered the Anfield cauldron in good form after dreadfulstarts to the season. Liverpool had conceded only one goal in six gameswhile Everton were unbeaten since November and the last Merseysidederby.
Those records did not translate into the game. There were 26 foulsin the first half-hour and Atkinson, who had not shown a red card inhis previous 22 games, should have produced one when Pienaar leftMascherano howling with agony.
Not to worry. A few minutes later, Kyrgiakos went in on Fellaini and the hosts were a man down.
Benitez said afterwards: 'Maybe the team spirit is better when youknow you have to fight and stick together.' So it proved. Liverpoolupped their game with 10 men. Gerrard curled a free-kick on to the barand David N'gog dragged a shot wide.
Fiesty encounter: Steven Pienaar is challenged by Jamie Carragher
Apart from one Tim Cahill header that missed the target on the stroke of half-time, Everton surprisingly went into their shells.
Their normally renowned defence fell apart for the goal. Neville wasconcentrating so hard on pulling Kuyt's shirt, he failed to stop theDutchman heading in Gerrard's corner from four yards past a statuesqueHoward, who was too busy trying to push Kuyt away to think aboutcatching or punching the ball.
'It is always difficult when the other team puts in a good deliverylike that,' said Moyes, refusing to admonish his players publicly.
Yakubu was sent on to try and grab that vital equaliser but the lateEverton surge never really arrived. Pienaar made one challenge too manywhen he jumped with Gerrard and made enough contact to leave theLiverpool captain clutching his head.
'We tried to play with our head, not our heart, but sometimes it's difficult,' said Benitez.
'It's amazing to see our team work so hard. There were 20 tackles toanalyse and you could get 20 different opinions so I prefer not tocomment. We were trying to win, they were trying to win. It's alwayslike that in a derby.
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