1. Possession isn’t everything.
No one who watched the game this morning will argue that Liverpool were dominant for large periods of the game. They had the lions share of possession and Everton didn’t spend too much time in their half. However, those who claim that because of this stat, Liverpool deserved to win are deluded. For all their possession, Liverpool created very fe chances of note. The likes of Torres, Kuyt and Babel barely featured in a creative sense and only Gerrard and Alonso looked like picking Everton open. Still though, they couldn’t manage it. Everton’s defending was simply outstanding. Phil Jagielka is actually outshining Lescott at the moment and Lescott was one of the best defenders in England last year – and still is. The full backs were solid and committed, and the midfield worked tirelessly. Credit to Moyes’ organisational skills, and the players’ work rate. In the end it took a moment of typical Gerrard superhumanity and a goalkeeping error from Howard to keep Liverpool in the tie. Tempting as it is to declare that Liverpool’s dominance deserved a victory, the fact is that Everton were too good for them defensively, and thus remained the better team in a way for much of the game. Possession isn’t everything.
2. Liverpool – Gerrard = Shit.
Seriously, talk about a one man team. In the two games at Anfield this week it has taken a Gerrard goal to save Liverpool’s necks, and to be honest, rarely in either game has any other player genuinely looked like scoring. Torres did on one surge in the League tie, and Kuyt might have had one late on yesterday, but other than that, Liverpool didn’t threaten. If I had the time, resources and motivation I would go through Liverpool’s recent history and wipe Gerrard’s goals from their results, and see how it would hamper them. I’d leave them his assists and stuff, but I’m fairly sure they would not be nearly as successful as they are today without Gerrard. If anyone does have the time, resources and motivation to attempt this, please do so and let me know when you have, I’d be hugely interested to see how poor Liverpool are without their ‘Captain Fantastic’.
3. Liverpool are going to hate Fellaini.
Both of Everton’s goals in the two fixtures this week have been headers from set-pieces, and both have been heavily influenced by an unmarked Tim Cahill, as he scored one and setup the other. It seems that Liverpool’s defence have a huge issue with being able to keep the little Aussie in check and that gives me some excitement as to how they might fail to cope with Fellaini, who should be available for the replay at Goodison after missing both of this weeks game through suspension. Granted, the Belgian sticks out a bit more than Cahill, what with his towering height and dopey haircut, and so will struggle to be as ‘sneaky’ in losing his man as ‘Tiny Tim’. However, he is one hell of a handful in the air and with Arteta, Pienaar and Osman providing pin-point deliveries into the area, will surely have Benitez worrying in the lead up to the match.
4. Everton weren’t really negative, Rafa’s just bitter.
After the match Benitez has come out and criticised Everton’s defensive tactics saying that “One team was trying to win and the other team was trying not to lose”. First of all, I think deep down, both team;s were trying not to lose as in trying to win, there is the necessary implication that they therefore don’t lose. Logical flaws aside, Benitez still doesn’t have much of a point. Yes, Everton defended like heroes and didn’t get chance to do much attacking, but you must remember that we have only one fit striker at the moment, who is still a youngster and returning from injury himself. It is difficult to name a truly attacking side with no strikers and in the circumstances, we have been doing very well. There is also the slight problem of Everton leading for much of the game. We went ahead, perhaps against the run of ‘possession’ (see 1.) but fully deserved it for how we had played. We then settled into a defensive stance to attempt to hold on and win the game. If Liverpool couldn’t break us down, that is their problem. I think we should be admired for doing so well without a full striker, and I think that until such a time comes that we leave a 20 million pound striker out of the squad and play like that, Benitez should keep his mouth firmly shut. But he’s having trouble doing that of late isn’t he, probably because his team are stuttering quite badly. Sour grapes, Rafa?
5. Everton are in with a real shot of winning the replay.
In two games this week at Anfield, Everton have matched Liverpool in every department. We have troubled them defensively and they have struggled immensely in breaking us down, relying on Gerrard’s trademark inspiration. However, the replay at Goodison could prove a very different affair. For one, Mikel Arteta should feature, as he didn;t this morning, which will give us a lot more creativity and composure in midfield, not to mention his delectable set piece skills. We will also welcome back Maruaone Fellaini, who has been in great form this season, ans I think should really trouble a shaky Liverpool defence (see 3.). By that point too, there is an outside chance Moyes may have been able to bring in a striker on loan, which could give us more options of the bench. Of course, there will be more pressure on us to attack them at Goodison, but I feel Moyes will be cautious in his approach. He knows we can get goals from set pieces, and so will not want to do anything too risky at the back. Roared on by a home crowd, I really think Everton are in with a good chance of progressing. Here’s hoping.
6. My FA Cup Prediction…
The sixth and last conclusion I will make is also the most controversial. Having seen the draw for the next round of the Cup, the winner of the replay at Goodison will face either Doncaster or Aston Villa. Realistically, one has to feel that Villa will triumph in the replay and setup another top six clash, but either way, I have a sneaky feeling that the victor of the next tie (between Everton/Liverpool and Villa/Doncaster) will go on to lift the famous trophy this season. Don’t ask me why, but I just think that Everton and Villa have shown in their league form that they can beat anybody on their day, and Liverpool are title contenders and so can’t be ruled out. If, against all the odds, Doncaster triumph against Villa and either Merseyside club, I may retract the above prediction.