Friday 19 January 2018

Carroll's season comes to life at last

EVERTON 0
LIVERPOOL 2

Andy Carroll celebrates after scoring Liverpool’s opening goal in the Merseyside
derby on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
Andy Carroll celebrates after scoring Liverpool’s opening goal in the Merseyside derby on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

Chris Bascombe

A towering target man with fitness issues, who enjoys downing pints in between occasional goals, usually in Merseyside derbies.

It is fair to say not all the initial comparisons between Andy Carroll and Duncan Ferguson are designed to be complimentary.

For one afternoon, at least, Liverpool's No 9 absorbed one of the more endearing habits associated with a former Goodison hero.

If Carroll's critical strike on his derby debut marks the beginning of an era where he is the scourge of Everton as much as Ferguson was Liverpool in the late '90s, the favourable scrutiny of the £35m striker's performances will be accelerated.

Carroll did not exactly terrorise the Everton defence in what became an unjustly uneven derby, but his 71st-minute opener promised richer tidings for a player who has struggled to adjust to the microscopic analysis of Anfield life.

The Geordie admitted his goal must be the launch pad for a more consistent return on an inflated transfer fee which, whether Anfield's powerbrokers like it or not, will define Carroll's Merseyside career.

Carroll did not put the price on his own head and he should not be perpetually beaten with it.

In fact, it is the credibility and reputation of those who agreed the valuation that is as much at stake as the striker's longevity in a red shirt.

That is what makes his first league goal of the season, in a fixture which matters more than most, so important.

Kenny Dalglish, a man more versed in the merits of pleading the Fifth Amendment than an American Founding Father when the questions are deemed tiresome, argued the mounting pressure for goals was more fabrication than reality.

The striker himself evidently felt he had responded to a burden of responsibility.

"It's a relief to get my first of the season and be back on the score sheet," said Carroll. "This is by far the highlight of my time here, easily. Scoring against Everton and beating them at their place is special, but you have got to keep it going.

fancied

"I had been speaking with José Enrique and I told him that I fancied getting my first of the season here. I thought 'this is the day'."

Carroll's staunch, but sometimes charitable backers have merit to their argument that he has suffered because the midfield service is not what he requires.

It may transpire that an equally pivotal moment in Carroll's Liverpool career arrived eight minutes before his goal.

Captain Steven Gerrard, deprived from providing the midfield dynamics behind the Carroll-Luis Suárez pairing since their arrival last January, made his entrance. The trio have still not started a match together.

For all the millions lavished on rebuilding Liverpool, for all the cavalries of new recruits following each managerial appointment, and for all the recent boardroom upheavals, there is one reassuring certainty at Anfield.

When the team are in a rut the attention shifts expectantly towards the captain.

After seeing their side toil against an Everton side wrongly deprived of Jack Rodwell from the 24th minute, the visiting fans dispatched an SOS to the usual source.

Their impatient demand was for Gerrard's introduction to provide the impetus Liverpool were lacking, despite their extra pair of legs.

Gerrard and Craig Bellamy exposed Everton's weariness and, with their arrival, Dalglish made the second match-defining decision of the day.

Liverpool found the platform to glide unobstructed towards a victory which should have been inevitable once referee Martin Atkinson wrecked hopes of a fair contest.

Atkinson's draconian punishment for a challenge which bore no resemblance to a foul on Suárez, let alone dangerous play, disfigured the game and ensured the gulf between the teams visibly grew in the debilitating heat.

Moyes will seek an apology from the official and last night launched an appeal against the dismissal, but held little hope of a reprieve for Rodwell.

"You don't get things overturned," he said. "The FA very much keep together with the PGMO (Professional Game Match Officials).

"And what if the red card was rescinded? It cost us the game.

"But I would expect the people in power to stand up and say 'we got it wrong'. Good people admit their mistakes and accept it and there's no shame in doing that."

The hosts were encouraging before Rodwell's exit, but Liverpool improved and could have added more once Carroll eased frustrations.

Suárez doubled the lead eight minutes from time to ensure the first half regrets of a missed penalty by Dirk Kuyt were extinguished with the bitter memories of last season's Goodison embarrassment. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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