It was one of the most anticipated Merseyside Derbies in close to 30 years. At least that’s what NBC Sports were telling me just a few moments before kickoff. Much like an annoying little brother, the blue side of Liverpool had been yapping away excitedly in anticipation of this match. Maybe that’s why the match carried so much hype. The more likely scenario was that it was clearly best match of the day for NBC Sports and they had to hype SOMETHING. Nonetheless I couldn’t wait for this one to kick off. Ever since that incredible 3-3 draw at Goodison Park back on November 23rd, I had circled yesterday on the calendar. I still believe to this day that Liverpool was cheated out of three points that day. Kevin Mirallas deserved to be sent off early in that match, and without him on the pitch there’s no way that the Toffees manage to score any of those goals. It was upsetting because three points on the road against a team that you think will be competing with you for league position would have been huge! I recognize that we earned a draw and I tried to convince myself it was a good result, but I wanted to avenge the denial of those additional two points that Liverpool so deserved. It was time that the big brother reached across the city and slapped that annoying little brother back down to reality. The 4-0 victory was exactly the remedy I needed to see from the Reds, no doubt about that. As Brendan Rodgers pointed out, it really should have been six or seven. I admit that it would have been sweet to see the Karma Police show up and hand Mirallas that red card he earned two months ago, but I’ll take the win and bragging rights to boot.
Yesterday’s result was very much analogous to this winter storm that terrorized the southeast United States yesterday. There was so much buildup that it really could only let you down (obviously that statement is not applicable to our brethren in Atlanta). The meteorologists clearly overestimated the impact of this storm for my side of Raleigh, and as a “neutral” observer of the weather it was definitely a massive letdown for me. I can only imagine that the “neutral” soccer fan watching the Merseyside Derby yesterday was thinking the exact same thing. Especially after Daniel Sturridge decided it was time to put on a personal clinic on how to finish with two superior goals. Truth be told, after Lukaku was substituted due to injury I honestly told myself that the match was effectively over. Without that Belgian beast, Everton didn’t stand a chance at scoring an equalizer. Never mind the recent poor play of Kolo Toure and Aly Cissokho. You could’ve paired me with the Three Stooges back there and I think Liverpool would have kept a clean sheet once Lukaku came off. I grant you that Simon Mignolet might have needed to make a few more saves out there, but I just don’t see anything other than Lukaku on that Everton squad which would scare any defensive unit.
Everton fans had aspirations of finishing in the top four this season. I say “had aspirations” because I don’t think anyone seriously thinks they have the depth to recover now that their rent-a-striker Lukaku is out injured for a few weeks. The last time that Everton finished in the top four was in the 2004-05 campaign (an event overshadowed on Merseyside when the Reds brought home their FIFTH European Cup, I might add). Now that some clubs have rich owners with more disposable income than some countries have in GDP, it is becoming increasingly more challenging for a club like Everton to break through into the top four of the BPL. While Manchester United is certainly having a down year, I don’t think anyone expects to see them this far down the table in the years to come. Liverpool is strengthening their squad buying young talent that will hopefully grow into legends, and Everton is still renting their talent like a cheap tuxedo on its way to the prom. I can’t see guys like Lukaku staying with the Toffees beyond this season, so you have to think that the window for Evertonians seeing Champion’s League glory at Goodison Park is closing quickly. If it hasn’t been shut already.
So finally there appears to be a slight bit of separation at the top to the table. Of the teams that occupied the top six before these midweek fixtures, only Manchester City and Liverpool earned three points. Before you speak up and correctly point out that Liverpool are still seven points from the top of the table, let me remind you that each team sitting above us have to travel to Anfield before the end of the season. Arsenal is the next club scheduled to come to Anfield on February 8th. Six of the founding members of LFC Raleigh (yours truly included) will be watching that match live from the Kop, so I think you all know what I expect that result will be.
First things first though. Take care of business at the Hawthorns and beat West Bromwich Albion. With Manchester City hosting Chelsea on Monday, it’s possible that the top four could draw that much closer together. So get out to the pub and cheer the lads against the Baggies at 8:30 AM on this coming Sunday.