Why words and not actions
became the great topic of debate
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
It's been more than a decade since we last had a proper
spat between derby bosses.
But back then they did it with more gusto.
"Don’t ever talk about the School of Science to me again,"
spat Roy Evans in the winter of 1995, puncturing post-match
tedium as bored hacks pondered how to make a dire 0-0 draw
"Sounds like someone’s dummy has come out of the pram," Joe
Royle memorably countered, before both men kissed and made
In contrast, "small club" and "it’s nice when managers show
humility" was lightweight stuff.
But you know it’s been another drab derby when the
post-match comments become the most talked about issue of
Rafa Benitez’s ungracious remarks were not only inaccurate,
they hinted at a deep dissatisfaction with his own team’s
inability to carve out more than a handful of half-chances.
Small club? Everton’s hearts were huge.
And all the big performances came from defenders.
Alan Stubbs’ selection was integral to Everton’s clean
sheet. He’ll never catch Craig Bellamy in a 60-metre sprint,
but when you’ve 15 years worth of top flight know-how and
experience to call on, you won’t often allow yourself to be
caught in a position where you need to.
He organised, cajoled and directed operations for Everton -
in addition to getting his head on the end of a countless
stream of long punts into the Everton penalty box.
This was perhaps the greatest source of Benitez’s
frustration. Liverpool’s attacking play was one dimensional.
For 45 minutes Everton matched their neighbours in terms of
possession and attacking intent.
But for the second 45 they sat back, defended and invited
Liverpool to show the wit to break them down.
Steven Gerrard endured some unsavoury chanting from the away
support inside Anfield, but rarely looked like offering the
perfect riposte, while Xabi Alonso’s passing was both patchy
Out wide, John Arne Riise was comfortably shackled by the
outstanding Tony Hibbert, while Leon Osman’s desire to get
forward and support his lone striker handed Jermaine Pennant
the freedom of the right touchline.
Only once did he fire in a cross that threatened a goal -
and by that stage Liverpool’s trio of strikers had given up
making runs into the six yard box.
If Everton harboured hopes of a rare double over their
neighbours, the pivotal moment came as early as the 13th
minute and involved - as it did last time at Goodison Park -
Jamie Carragher and Andy Johnson. In September, however, it
was Carragher coming back from injury earlier than was
This time the roles were reversed.
Johnson was first to a ball played over the top from Cahill
and managed a reasonable first touch, but Carragher
effortlessly tracked his run, eased the striker towards the
corner flag and then forced Johnson to run the ball
harmlessly into touch.
It was a process which was repeated for all bar one moment
of an uneventful afternoon, and then Pepe Reina stuck out a
trailing foot to parry Johnson’s goalbound effort when he
finally escaped Carragher’s clutches.
Carragher played like he had a point to prove - and he did
But few others in the Red ranks did so.
So that peculiar prize of ‘bragging rights’ went to the Blue
half of the city.
Not that either side had much to shout about.
So it was left to the managers to make the headlines . . .
which is never
a good sign.
Stevie: It felt like a defeat
By Jimmy Rice - LFC Official Website
Steven Gerrard insists the Reds must stay positive
despite admitting Saturday's draw against Everton "felt like
The Anfield skipper says he and his teammates must not dwell
on losing ground over Chelsea and Manchester United.
"At the end of the game it felt like we'd lost because we
were so disappointed not to get the three points," he said.
"Credit to Everton for the way they defended, but it was
clear there was only one side trying to win the game.
"You've got to try and look at the positives but when you're
at home you're always looking to win.
"Normally, a draw here and there when you've had the kind of
run we've had wouldn't be so bad, but we know we're playing
"Every time we let that gap get bigger, a draw feels like a
"You’ve got to say United are starting to look unstoppable,
but we'll keep pushing them and the main target is to keep
winning games and see where we are when they come to our
"Hopefully, we can still make that a really significant game
when it comes along."
By Al Campbell - LFC Online
Rafael Benitez has released a further statement after
pointing out that Everton are a small team.
Benitez has been prompted to release a further statement
following a day of non stop whinging by Evertonians after
the Liverpool boss correctly pointed out that Everton are a
"I’m not talking about them. You can only see the things
that you see out on the pitch, and they were playing deep,
compact, narrow, playing counter attack and trying to score
from set-pieces," said Benitez.
"You can understand it because we are a top side. We were
expecting them to play like that – that was the reason we
played with three strikers, and also with Pennant wide.
"We tried to change things because we knew they would be
playing narrow, compact and deep."
Evertonians have spent the past day and a half complaining
about Benitez's remarks on phone ins and on message forums.
Ironically, the only song Everton fans have is 'we don't
care what the redshite say.'
will show Rafa no Mersey
The day Liverpool managaer Rafael Benitez called Everton
a small club is undoubtedly going to go down in Mersey derby
The next time Everton win one of these high-octane
collisions, you can be sure the headline will be 'Not bad
for a small club.'
Benitez may well now hope such an occasion does not come on
The Anfield boss may well have been suggesting that
Everton's ambitions were small because of their defensive
approach to this match.
But Everton did not miss a trick in claiming the high morale
ground - responses from chief executive Keith Wyness and
manager David Moyes saw to that - and this was an insult
that will haunt Liverpool long after Benitez has returned to
Spain to extend his career.
If he manages Real Madrid, would he dare call Atletico a
small club? If he ends up at Barcelona, would be dismiss
Espanyol in the same way?
The answer to the questions would be no, so he should not
have said it about Everton. Not just in one television
interview but two, and then again when given the chance to
retract the remark in the media conference.
Gary Lineker, himself a former Everton player, was
surprisingly dismissive on Match of the Day about the
"kerfuffle on Merseyside" and gave the Spaniard the "benefit
of the doubt." Evertonians elsewhere will not be as
The uproar overshadowed a diligent, defiant Everton
rearguard action in which Alan Stubbs was outstanding.
Liverpool were hounded and harassed out of their stride, and
surely Benitez and the team must realise they do not have a
God-given right to breeze around Anfield with time and space
to win matches as they wish.
Moyes was polite, but cutting afterwards, saying: "I would
not say that about any football club anywhere. I am
disappointed that has been said.
"There is no doubt we are in the shadow of Liverpool, but we
are doing out utmost to compete with them."
Wyness, in a considered response on the club's website,
ensured that this will now become a full-blown diplomatic
incident by stating: "It is disappointing to hear such an
unnecessary comment at the conclusion of what was such a
splendid local derby.
Everton hit back
at Benitez jibe
BBC Sport Online
Everton have responded angrily to Liverpool manager
Rafael Benitez branding the Toffees a "small club".
The Spaniard said after Saturday's 0-0 Merseyside derby:
"When you play against the smaller teams at Anfield you know
the game will be narrow."
Everton chief executive Keith Wyness responded on the club
website and said: "Benitez is in a minority of one in
believing Everton is a small club.
"Somehow we just expect more of a Liverpool manager."
Benitez was angry with Everton's tactics in holding the Reds
to a stalemate at Anfield as Liverpool fell further behind
Liverpool dominated possession in the 205th derby but failed
to find a way through a stubborn Everton resistance.
He said: "There was only one team that wanted to win and one
team that didn't want to lose, they had nine men all the
time behind the ball.
"When you play against a big club, a draw is sometimes a
Everton manager David Moyes brushed off the remarks and felt
his side were unlucky not to have gained their second win
over their neighbours this season.
He said: "We've taken four points off Liverpool this season,
so we must be doing something right.
"There's a difference of about £100m in spending between the
two clubs, but we are doing our best to bridge the gap. I
would have liked to come here and put on a bigger show, but
it's not an easy place to get a result and we've not done
"We could even have won the game with a bit more luck."
Wyness however, was not as forgiving and felt Benitez's
comments were inappropriate.
He added: "It is disappointing to hear such an unnecessary
comment at the conclusion of what was such a splendid local
Everton 'a small team'
Frustrated Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez described
Everton as a "small team" after seeing his side held to a
0-0 Merseyside derby draw.
Benitez, frustrated by what he perceived as negative tactics
from the Blues, first said it in a TV interview, and then
repeated it in the media conference.
Given the opportunity to explain he said: "After a game when
a team comes to Anfield and plays a top side like that,
looking for a draw, what else can you call them?"
Everton, who beat Liverpool 3-0 with a display of pace and
skill at Goodison Park in September, made it four points out
of six against their nearest neighbours with a performance
this time of tenacity, bravery and sheer hard graft.
Those lost four points could well end Liverpool's dreams of
catching Chelsea and taking the runners-up spot, but it is
Benitez's perceived put-down of the men from across Stanley
Park that will live longer in the memory than this match.
Benitez said: "Playing against a small team it is not always
easy when they have nine men behind the ball. One team
wanted to win while one team came not to lose.
"We controlled the game and had all the possession, and they
had one chance from our mistake. After that we controlled
The Spaniard's grasp of English may not provide him with the
subtlety needed in such circumstances but Everton and their
fans will be offended by the "small team" remark.
Blues chief executive Keith Wyness walked down the steps
from the directors box muttering about the implied insult,
and in this city with such rivalry, it was a word Everton
will never let Liverpool forget.
The one Everton chance Benitez referred to came on the hour
to Andrew Johnson, surprisingly fit to play after a bad
ankle injury. He will be joining up with England, confirmed
boss David Moyes.
He would have gone to join his England colleagues in higher
spirits had he put away an effort, from a Steve Finnan
error, that saw him have two shots in the box, the second
superbly saved by Jose Reina.
Benitez admitted to being very disappointed with the result,
saying: "We had possession, passing, three strikers and
Jermaine Pennant and John Arne Riise wide to provide
"We were doing a lot of things right and were attacking all
suffer derby day blues
By Tom Adams - Sky Sports
Everton dented Liverpool's ambitions of catching Chelsea
as they held The Reds to a 0-0 draw in the 205th Merseyside
Rafa Benitez's side dominated possession and enjoyed the
greater share of the chances on home turf, but their
inability to break down Everton's backline saw them pass up
the chance to move to within two points of Jose Mourinho's
Everton had been delighted to welcome Andy Johnson back from
injury after a rapid recovery before the game, but their
success at Anfield was built on a resolute defence which
withstood sustained pressure throughout the game.
Although Everton missed out on claiming their first league
double over their great rivals for the first time since the
1984/1985 season - following the memorable 3-0 win at
Goodison earlier in the campaign - a point against a team
boasting a record of nine wins from 10 games was still
representative of a superb afternoon's work for the Blue
half of Merseyside.
Rafa Benitez started with three strikers for the first time
at Anfield this season, with Everton adopting a more
conventional 4-5-1 formation, and the combination of the two
made for a breathless opening.
Both sides of the city could have been celebrating a goal
inside ten minutes, as Tony Hibbert almost marked his first
appearance since October in style by thundering a shot at
Jose Reina after latching onto Leon Osman's low cross in
front of the Kop.
Peter Crouch went even closer immediately after, as
Liverpool won a free-kick following the first flashpoint of
the derby when Tim Cahill cleaned out an angry Jermaine
Everton failed to clear the subsequent set-piece and only a
fine reaction stop from Tim Howard denied Crouch as the
striker acrobatically hooked the ball towards goal.
The Reds' other two forwards combined brilliantly in the
left-hand channel soon after, but Craig Bellamy was given
offside from Dirk Kuyt's pass before he fired the ball home
from a tight angle.
When the Dutchman again teed up his colleague, with a header
from Pennant's deep cross, Bellamy only had to get his head
to the ball to beat Howard but somehow managed to fail to
connect at all.
As the mist rolled in from the Mersey, reducing visibility
somewhat, Everton looked keen to ensure that the final
destination of the three points was far from transparent as
Mikel Arteta's free-kick was blocked before Leon Osman saw a
header from Johnson's cross claimed by Reina.
Moyes' men were well-organised and what was always a high
energy affair began to suffer from a lack of quality in the
latter stages of the first half, although there was precious
little wrong with Xabi Alonso's vicious long range effort
that stroked the top of the net.
Kuyt also saw a curling effort smartly saved by Howard as
Everton frustrated their in-form local rivals with a
tireless display in the first 45 minutes.
Liverpool emerged from the break doubly determined to make
the breakthrough and, after Alonso saw another long range
effort clasped by Howard, they almost had it when the ball
fell to Jamie Carragher at the back post from a set-piece.
The defender lined up a rare shot and hammered a fine effort
that was blocked by Phil Neville, suspiciously close to the
Everton man's arm.
On the hour mark it was Moyes' men who should have taken the
lead though, as Johnson took advantage of some sloppy play
at the back to charge through on goal.
After twisting past Carragher in the box, the striker was
unable to get his shot away immediately, and after dallying
on the ball by the penalty spot he saw his subsequent effort
saved by the outstretched legs of Reina.
Osman also powered a header just wide, but soon after normal
service was resumed as Steven Gerrard lashed a free-kick
inches off-target following a foul by Arteta on John Arne
The Reds continued to heap pressure on the visitors but
Everton's backline refused to buckle, and Lee Carsley
exemplified the effort that underpinned Everton's
performance with a timely block to deny Kuyt from Bellamy's
The excellent Alan Stubbs also nicked the ball off the toes
of the Dutchman just as he was pulling the trigger, and
Gerrard's follow-up shot was gratefully clasped by Howard as
another attack failed to bear fruit.
Bentiez threw on Robbie Fowler against the team he supported
as a child in the final stages, and the striker soon chested
a ball through for Crouch that his attacking colleague could
only steer weakly into the hands of Howard.
Liverpool's annoyance was evident when Alonso was guilty of
a messy high tackle on substitute Victor Anichebe, although
he escaped a caution, and their frustration was complete
when the whistle blew for full time.