Over the course of 90 minutes from 12.45pm on Saturday March 25, 2006, the Reds and the Toffees played out a drama-filled Anfield contest.
This, put simply, ticked an awful lot of the boxes for perennial derby content. Alongside plenty of bonus material.
There were the desirably high stakes. There were four goal, two of which were taken with considerable quality, two red cards – one for each team and one in each half. Simply put, this was no sleepy lunchtime kick-off. Plenty of content to dive into – and that’s even before we reach the rest of the game.
A glance at the shirt numbers before the game provided the first offering of the quality and menace that would be taking to the field. The respective No.8s – Red’s skipper Steven Gerrard and Everton striker James Beattie – were instead wearing ‘08’ for this one. Why? Culture. The specially adjusted numbers were to mark Liverpool’s upcoming year as the European Capital of Culture in 2008. An interesting and original thought – and sight.
Those aforementioned high stakes would have been there, regardless of league position. However, the fact that the respective teams’ were coming in with positive runs of form heightened the excitement even further. A win would put Rafael Benítez’s side second – having admittedly played three more games than Manchester United – while the Toffees were now just six points off the top six.
In comparison, after a ragged start to the season – that had seen David Moyes’ team suffer 11 defeats in their first 19 league games – the Blues responded with a run of eight wins in the next 11, giving their campaign considerably renewed vigor. That 19th fixture, as it happened, was another 3-1 loss to Liverpool in the Goodison Park derby on December 28.Embed from Getty Images
The stakes, as would be expected, were there in the atmosphere, the tempo and – indeed – the tackles. One such challenge proved costly for Gerrard in the 18th minute. After he slid in on the edge of the home box and brought down Kevin Kilbane, referee Phil Dowd swiftly showed the captain a second yellow card in the space of 45 seconds.
The away end was ecstatic. The rest of Anfield was riled. It was now an uphill task for the 10 men in red, however – under the brilliant tactical adjustments by Benítez – Liverpool held their own and then began to fight back.
In the first minute of first-half stoppage time, a swift out swinging Alonso corner was inadvertently headed into his own net by Phil Neville at the near post, just the lift required going into the interval. There’d be even more of a bounce shortly after they re-emerged from it.
After Peter Crouch flicked on Pepe Reina’s 47th-minute goal kick, Luís Garcia read the bounce, nodded the ball into his own path and then coolly flicked it over advancing goalkeeper Richard Wright and into the net in front of a bouncing Kop. The scene of Reina racing up field at an impressive pace to join the celebrations was wonderful to see and clear certification of a ‘Big Goal’ during the Spaniard’s stint on Merseyside. Despite being a man down, the Reds were showing off their quality.
Everton responded with a familiar Reds foe. Australian international Tim Cahill leapt with typically impeccable timing to head home a Leon Osman corner and halve the deficit 14 minutes later, but in truth that was as good as it got for the visitors.
After making his bow on the pitch in the 68th minute for Kevin Kilbane, Andy van der Meyde found himself back in the changing rooms five minutes later. This came after he led – and caught Alonso – with his elbow in an aerial challenge. Once he’d pulled the Dutchman away from the growing crowd of players, Dowd had no choice but to give the Blue his marching orders.
After regaining parity in the player department and once again establishing control in the contest, the Reds regained their two-goal advantage in the 84th minute in some style.
Harry Kewell became the second Australian goal scorer of the day when he received a square pass from Steve Finnan 25 yards out, set himself and then cut across the ball beautifully to send a dipping left-footed shot out of Wright’s reach and inside the left-hand post. All things considered; his celebration was pretty composed. In truth, though, it matched the manner in which he’d notched what proved to be the clincher.Embed from Getty Images
Anfield was offering more than enough barminess of its own. ‘Form goes out of the window’ – one of the common lines attached to derbies. Often justifiably, too. This one certainly looked to be a considerable director of form. For Liverpool, this was their third win in a run of nine consecutive Premiership victories at the end of 2005/06. For Everton, this was the first of three defeats in their final eight league games of the campaign – which also only produced one win.
The former finished third and as FA Cup winners. The latter finished 11th. This was a lunchtime which, in the wider context, looks to have been a notable trajectory-setter. A ‘typical’ derby, in many ways – and, on this occasion, it was all the more memorable for it.
Don’t miss a thing
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox. It’s free!