Ahead of the first derby of the season at Goodison, I always like to think back to the best Derbies I’ve been to. I find that the matches at their place feel more like proper Derby matches.
I think Everton tend to open up more at home which makes the games there a lot more entertaining and it generally suits how Liverpool teams like to play. When I reflect on my best Derby match, there’s one that always immediately springs to mind.
April 2001, a pivotal month for Gerard Houlliers Liverpool team. Having secured the League Cup in February, the team went in to the last 2 months of the season chasing more cup glory in the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup.
We were also aiming to secure a place in the new Champions League format for the very first time.
We had a derby match to contend with on Easter Monday 16th April. We’d not won at Goodison for 11 years and we had never took 3 points away from there ever since Sky invented football back in 1992.
Having beaten Everton earlier on in the season, we also had the opportunity to complete our first league double over them in the Premier League Era.
We’d only just completed our first ever Premier League Double over Man United in March so it was another incentive to try and do the double over both of our fiercest rivals in the same season.
Everton had more than pride to play for having spent the majority of that season trying to avoid getting drawn into a relegation battle. They still weren’t safe so defeat at the hands of their most hated rivals was not an option.
We’d just lost our Previous game 2-1 at home against a strong Leeds United team and at that time, the team looked jaded and looked like we were going to miss out on a Champions League place yet again.
Me and my mates had seats in the Liverpool end towards the back of the lower Bullens and bang in line with goal line at the Park End.
The game kicked off at the unusual time of 6pm. It was the day after the 12th anniversary of Hillsborough so there was a minutes silence before the game.
Unfortunately, the minutes silence was not observed as well as it should have been and as a result, the game kicked off with a poisonous atmosphere. Let’s just say it’s best if I leave it at that!
Liverpool got off to the best possible start. We took an early lead after 5 minutes with a great Emile Heskey finish at the Gladwys Street End.
We looked by far the stronger side in the first half and should have wrapped the game up by half time but we didn’t take our chances and Everton equalised through Duncan Ferguson with a scrappy goal just before half time.
We then had a chance to give ourselves more breathing space when we won a penalty that Robbie Fowler then thumped square against the keeper’s left hand post at the Park End.
The game continued to excite for the remainder of the second half with chances at both ends although our job was made harder when Igor Biscan was sent off for a needless second yellow card in the 77th minute, but the egotistical referee, Jeff Winter didn’t hesitate to reach for this pocket and couldn’t wait to send off the big Croat.
Winter then awarded a very soft penalty when Hyypia was alleged to have held down Duncan Ferguson. Unsworth put the pen away right down the throat of Westerveld with just 5 minutes of normal time to go, it looked like we would not get the 3 points we so badly craved.
Deep into stoppage time, we won a free kick after a debatable foul on Gregory Vignal. It was similar to a free kick we’d won earlier but much further out– me and my mate both had a debate saying ‘he’s gonna have a pop you know’.
Gary McAllister lined it up. I still can’t believe he tried a shot from that distance. It was at least 35 yards out but was taken from a spot much closer to the goal from where the actual foul had taken place.
In it went and the crowd went nuts. Absolute bedlam. I’ve been in some crack ups for Liverpool Home and Away but this has to go down as one of the best, before I knew it, I was more or less at the front of the away end and had somehow managed to find myself 20 odd rows down from my Seat.
When I glanced up to see what was happening on the pitch, I noticed Sammy Lee had managed to end up on the pitch celebrating with the players and he was jumping all over Gary McAllister.
The full time whistle went straight after the restart. More bedlam. Outside the ground, we bounced out onto Bullens Road and the vitriol was flying at us from the Blues which just made it all the sweeter!
We went down Walton Breck Road after the game for a few celebratory scoops which then somehow turned into a major session on Slater Street which was full of reds going nuts.
I woke up on the Tuesday morning with a major sore head with only the small matter of a second leg semi -final of the UEFA Cup against Barcelona to look forward to on the Thursday. Life couldn’t get any better.
That game proved to be a turning point in us obtaining the famous Cup treble and also give us the momentum to go on to land a champions league spot for the 2001 -2002.
I’ve seen better Liverpool sides than that one, but that class of 00-01 gave me and my mates the best season we’ve ever had following the reds.
So thanks Garry Macca for your Derby Goal, and then your Barca pen. No wonder we loved your Baldy Head……Oooooohhhhh Garry Macca, Garry Garry Macca
Written by @Mark_CurrieMMC