Within 14 seconds, Liverpool's Jamie Carragher had clattered Everton's Steven Pienaar, a blood-curdling, bone-shuddering impact. It set the tone. Amid the blood and thunder, the vitriol and bile, tackles flew in, tempers frayed and nerves shredded. It took 21 minutes for Martin Atkinson, given the impossible job of keeping the peace, to produce a yellow card, but six more followed. Sotirios Kyrgiakos was dismissed for a dangerous, mistimed two footed lunge which ended Marouane Fellaini's game after half an hour, but Liverpool could feel aggrieved he was the only culprit found guilty.
Fulham 0 Chelsea 2: match reportFellaini, ostensibly the victim, was fortunate not to be censured for stamping on the Greek in the tackle which led to his sending-off, but it was Steven Pienaar's studs-up challenge on Javier Mascherano which stoked the Kop's ire most.
That red saw red, rather than blue, changed the delicate balance of the game. Little football had been played this is never a game for the purist in between all of the set pieces, but Rafael Benitez's side had enjoyed the lion's share of possession, and the best of the few chances, most notably one for David Ngog, the Frenchman firing wide after good work from Maxi Rodriguez and Steven Gerrard.
But it was Everton who finished the half stronger, despite Gerrard clipping the bar with a free kick. David Moyes's side strode forward, their midfield unencumbered by challenges or pressure, as Liverpool rocked back on their heels, waiting for the salvation of the half-time whistle.
They almost did not make it. Landon Donovan saw his cross cut out by Mascherano, the makeshift right-back, who could only clear the ball as far as Tim Cahill. The Australian, six yards out, flashed his header just over.
Liverpool breathed again. Cahill went close immediately after the break, too, firing straight at Pepe Reina as Everton stretched their hosts' back line taut. Against the run of play, and the logic of maths, though, it was Liverpool who took the lead, Gerrard ignoring the vile taunts of the travelling fans to pick out Kuyt, peeling away from Tim Howard, to flick his captain's corner home.
Even against 10 men, though, Everton could not find a way back. They scarcely threatened until the introduction of Victor Anichebe and Yakubu, both of whom squandered chances to equalise in the dying stages.
When Pienaar, for his second bookable offence, was dismissed in injury time, their chances of earning an ill-deserved point were gone. Anfield exulted in a war won.