Mayhem & Misery On Mersey Monday: I don’t enjoy the ‘derby’ the way I used to. Most of that is down to the change of attitude aided and abetted by the artificial Sky-Hype. ‘Mersey Monday’ they branded this one which showed they don’t learn too much down at SSNHQ. Remember ‘Red Monday’ which became ‘Red Faced Monday’ after the tedious 0-0 draw against the Satanic mob from Salford central? The ‘derby’ used to be more akin to a private domestic dust up between neighbours and any interference from outsiders would have been dealt with in time honoured fashioned; only in the globalised world that is now football everyone is privy to what goes on and seems to want to have their say, both before and after. Because I didn’t get a ticket the best way to avoid the hype was not to turn on the TV until kick off and that’s what I did. The first half wasn’t good to watch when you’re of a nervous disposition. Everton shaded the first forty-five minutes of frenetic stuff. They were in our faces and gave me the impression that some raw meat had been on the menu at their pre-game lunch. For all that they hadn’t looked like scoring but the worrying bit from where I sat was we’d looked even less like getting one. Maybe the fact that neither goalkeeper had anything to do apart from pick the ball up now and then, showed what it had been like. How Carra and Rodent Neville could fill in the interval with any match analysis I didn’t bother to find out. There was a glass of wine waiting for me and that took preference. The second half was different but there was only one team trying to win and that team wasn’t wearing blue. The injury to their keeper was unfortunate but it didn’t make any difference to their approach, nor ours. It is widely known that Koeman wants to be manager of Barcelona but his tactics in the second half reminded me of the Italian sides of the 60’s and 70’ – almost Catenaccio and Helenio Herrera. If he ever gets his wish and plays that way in Catalunya he’d be frog marched to the nearest market place and flogged. I was glad when Sturridge was released from his latest period of sickness and although nothing much changed I felt he’d at least have a go and he duly did. It wasn’t so much a shot but a soft poke but I thought it was going in. When it struck the upright the agonised moan was audible all over the house but when Manè suddenly found himself in the right place at the right time the whoop of joy must have been heard a few streets away; I was transformed from muttering something incoherent to bouncing off the ceiling. The celebrations from the away end made good viewing but I didn’t like the flare being thrown on – it clouded my view of the Bitters stampeding out the Park end to get their excuses ready for the morning call. As for our MOTM I couldn’t split Lovren and Klavan who had Lukaku and company in their pockets in the second half. So much so that I don’t think Simon Mignolet’s kit needed to be washed, his gloves certainly didn’t. The ‘derby’ has many traditions, both ancient and modern. A couple that’s been with us since the 70’s are the bitterness and the Everton manager moaning. Ronald Koeman went as far as saying he didn’t think Everton deserved to lose and Dejan Lovren should have been sent off. All Lovren did as far as I could see from my sofa was try and stick up for his mate. Doesn’t he think Barkley should have been booked in the first half for the attempt at shirt swapping with Origi? Maybe like The Kaiser said, Barkley was lucky and Hendo was lucky – Hendo lucky he left Goodison with two legs intact. I don’t care either whether it was good, bad or indifferent and care even less what the modernist, radicals or football fundamentalists think. This was our ‘derby’ day, our victory and being second in the table is a lot better than being third. It’s nowt to do with anyone else.
After the past couple of games I travelled to Middlesbrough feeling some apprehension and when you’re feeling a bit down Middlesbrough isn’t the best place to go. I was once told by someone who, because of work, had to reside on Teesside that if Depression was a country, Middlesbrough would be its capital.
I don’t know what over loud noise blasted out over the tannoy before the game was trying to do but if it was supposed to create a pre-match atmosphere, it failed. I know the ground was built on a chemical waste land but that away kit of ours certainly had a bit more of a toxic glow about it.
In the wake of the over sky hyped spat between Jürgen and the Neville Brothers I wasn’t surprised to see a change in our custodial position with Mignolet back between the sticks. Karius needed to be taken out of the firing line – no pun intended – and not to have done so wouldn’t have been fair on the German ‘keeper. I’ve not seen him do anything that would inspire confidence and now hopefully he can go away and spend a bit of time out the spotlight. It would have been equally unfair on Mignolet to continue to leave him out although he’s had more than enough problems of his own.
I thought we looked a bit edgy in the first half and we still seemed to sometimes over complicate when the simple would have been the better choice and we gave away a few needless free kicks deep in our own half. Even after Lallana opened the scoring we seemed to go on the back foot – or was it a case of expecting something to go wrong? Manè hasn’t been at his pulsating best for a while but he was unlucky with the shot that hit the post – and wasn’t it a great ball from Origi?
The second half was more like what we’d started to get used to from a Jürgen Klopp team and once the goals went in the mood in the away end was loud and fun. Far better than the miserable attempt at a pre-match ear bombardment from the tannoy; the old classic of ‘The best midfield in the world’ got an airing! The three goal margin could have been six and Boro wouldn’t have been able to complain. Hopefully the blip has passed. If you wanted a bit of typical wit it maybe came in the final moments when Mignolet caught a cross and loud cheers rang out accompanied by “He’s our goalie, our Belgium goalie” – or maybe you just had to be there.
If I arrived at the ground feeling full of Christmas cheer I didn’t leave it feeling the same way. Despite the almost perfect start we couldn’t build on it, which was a pity because I felt West Ham might have caved in but instead they grew in stature and started causing a few problems for our defence. Whenever they got towards our goal you could sense the anxiety around Anfield and no matter how anybody wants to look at it the fact is teams don’t have to do too much to get goals against us. The equaliser was the ‘accident waiting to happen’ scenario. Lallana didn’t cover himself in glory when conceding the free kick, it was at best clumsy. The of course there’s our ‘keeper. He lined up his wall, then stood one yard from the post inviting Payet to stick the ball to his right, which he gratefully accepted. If he’d have been in the middle he’d have almost caught it. Whatever the Kaiser thinks, this guy is costing us. The second goal was probably a Matip misjudgement even though the attempted ball into the box took a massive deflection. Even so, Karius looked like he didn’t know what was going on. We may have still conceded but a bit of fast thinking might have had a different effect. When Origi equalised after the Hammer’s keeper had cocked up I thought we could take it from there. The second half was so one-sided it was unreal but we stopped doing the things that have brought us goals. Too many times we delayed having a pop and that was all West Ham needed? I did wonder what a fit Danny Sturridge might have done but that’s hypothetical. Henderson’s corners caused frustration amongst the crowd to say the least and caused West Ham no worries whatsoever. The fact is we’re still third, and have a chance at Boro on Wednesday to get back into the groove. On the other hand, Herr Klopp needs to sort out the defensive issues and quick, Brendan didn’t and it cost him and us in the end. The days of Carra, Hyypiä and Agger seem so distant now.