It might not live up to the halcyon days of the 1980s but the Merseyside derby still has the ability captivate a wider audience. The recent triple bill ending with Everton’s dramatic, late victory in the cup demonstrated this despite the efforts of ITV technicians. The sides first met in the League in 1894 with Liverpool triumphing 3-0 at Goodison Park. There have been 206 matches between the sides with Liverpool leading 79-65 in victories. The derby also holds the record as the most played FA Cup tie (22). The derby was at its greatest during the 1980s. Clashes between the Blues and Reds were virtual title deciders for a time as they both swapped the League Championship trophy across Stanley Park. Segregation was not an issue despite these fixtures being so crucial during football’s darkest decade. The first ever Merseyside Cup Final took place in 1984 (Milk Cup). This was followed by two famous FA Cup finals in 1986 and 1989, both won by Liverpool. The Premier League era has seen the fixture diminish in importance to the wider footballing world, mainly due to both clubs relative lack of success. However, locally, the game is as spiky as ever and holds the record for the Premier League fixture with the most players sent off (17). Here MD celebrates 10 of the best.
No.1 1991 Liverpool 4:4 Everton FA Cup 5th Round, Anfield
The match itself ding donged more than Leslie Phillips, in front of a passionate, awe struck Goodison. Liverpool took the lead four times and four times Everton equalised. Peter Beardsley, recalled after a series of inexplicable 'rests' put in a dazzling shift punctuated by two goals. John Barnes scored a wonderful, curling effort to put Liverpool 4-3 up in extra time and there was an inevitable derby strike from Ian Rush. For Everton, Graeme Sharp scored the first two equalisers but it was sub Tony Cottee who most remember with two further goals, including a 114th minute effort which was the eighth, and final, goal of the game. Liverpool played the better football and demanded the best Neville Southall had in his locker, but nobody could deny Everton’s endless resistance didn’t merit another replay. Harry Harris in the Daily Mirror wrote “It was a privilege to have been present at a game that lifts British football apart from any of the fancy versions on the continent”. Simple, jingoistic tabloid boasting. And spot on.
No.2 1989 Liverpool 3:2 Everton FA Cup Final
This dramatic game was played out to the backdrop of those terrible events in Sheffield five weeks earlier. The Hillsborough disaster cast a long shadow over the English game. 96 people died whilst attending a football match. It was an important match, an FA Cup semi-final, but it was still just a football match. Nobody should die attending one. Debate raged in the aftermath as to whether to play on or cancel the final, indeed the season. But ultimately the authorities took the view that life goes on and the fact that it was a Merseyside derby final would enable a unique opportunity for the healing process of this great footballing city. Opponents argued that commercial imperatives had outweighed moral ones. Both views had credibility. In the event the match was memorable for more than the occasion as both teams took the game to each other in a tussle that was eventually one of Wembley's most dramatic finals. Before the game Gerry Marsden led the crowd in a moving rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone, and within four minutes of the start the favourites had the lead through John Aldridge. Everton were initially stunned by going behind early, but gradually came into the match and in the last minute of normal time substitute Stuart McCall snatched a leveller. In extra time the thrills multiplied. Another sub Ian Rush put Liverpool back in front on 95, before a second, spectacular, equaliser from McCall. But Rush, so often the scourge of his boyhood team, bagged a second and Liverpool hung on for a draining, emotional victory. This was supposed to be the first leg of a double in this season delayed by tragedy. But Liverpool’s title rivals, Arsenal, were to deny them in the most sensational ever finish to a League season, definitely one of the top 10 league endings to any football season anywhere in the world.
No.3 2001 Everton 2:3 Liverpool Premier League
The Premiership era has seen the Merseyside derby reduce in importance in the context of national priorities. Liverpool have declined as a Championship winning outfit. Everton, despite notable improvements made under David Moyes, are far from the superpower of the mid 1980s. Merseyside derbies don't feature much on Grand Slam Sundays. However, there have been games which have been truly gripping. The best Premier League derby took place on Easter Monday 2001. It meant something too. Liverpool were in the midst of claiming three major trophies whilst attempting to secure a Champions League place. Everton, under Walter Smith, had the more mundane concerns of avoiding relegation. A tea-time kick off at Goodison saw a frenzied affair with 5 goals, 12 bookings and the sending off of Igor Biscan, which unsurprisingly, didn't alter the end result. Gary McAllister was the hero of what proved to be a glorious swansong to his career by hitting a scorching, 35 yard free kick to win the game well into added time. There was also an uncharacteristic penalty miss by Robbie Fowler thrown into the mix. Liverpool went on to get their three trophies and a Champions League spot, while Walter Smith saved his job for a while longer by keeping the Toffees up despite this traumatic defeat.
No.4 1984 Liverpool 0:1 Everton First Division
This was truly the match that announced Everton as the major force in English, and later that season, European football. Both sides had made unremarkable starts to the season, indeed Everton lost their opening fixture 4-1 at home to Spurs. In October, they were starting to put an inspirational run together and by the time they faced their old foes at Anfield, the tectonic plates were starting to shift on Merseyside. Then Graeme Sharp's thunderous half volley from 25 yards stimulated the Richter Scale into action. This was a 1-0 thrashing. Everton were dominant in all departments and the match was crowned with a memorable goal, which turned Evertonians throughout the four stands, hysterical. Sharp's goal would go onto win that year's Goal of the Season competition. The following Saturday another massive marker was put down by Howard Kendall's men. Manchester United were humiliated 5-0 at Goodison Park. By the season's close the League Championship and European Cup Winners Cup were in the trophy cabinet. It would have been an amazing treble but they lost the FA Cup final to Manchester United. Sadly, this great team was never given the chance to win the European Cup because of the Heysel disaster and subsequent banning of English clubs.
No.5 1977 Liverpool 2:2 Everton FA Cup Semi-Final
One of the most contentious games in the long history of the Merseyside derby. A cup semi-final at Maine Road was the venue for a thrilling clash. Liverpool were on their way to League and European titles, whereas Everton had just lost an epic League Cup final to Aston Villa after two replays. The outcome hinged on a decision by Clive Thomas to disallow a goal by Bryan Hamilton which appeared legitimate. Everton had already fought back twice with goals from Duncan McKenzie and Bruce Rioch equalising earlier strikes from Terry McDermott and Jimmy Case. A winner late on would surely have sent Everton to Wembley to meet Manchester United. Thomas for whom the word 'controversial' is deemed an obligatory adjective, went onto worldwide infamy the following year's World Cup when he blew for full-time a split second before Zico's header hit the net. In Merseyside derby folklore Thomas will also be the villain to the blue half, with even Emlyn Hughes admitting in later years that Liverpool were lucky to get the decision. Four days later at the same venue Liverpool cruised to Wembley on the back of a 3-0 win.
No.6 1984 Everton 0:0 Liverpool Milk (League) Cup Final
Perhaps a strange inclusion judging by our decision the leave out the 1986 FA Cup Final. However, this game had the novelty of being the first ever Merseyside final. It was also the first ever League Cup final to be screened live (by ITV) as part of the new TV deal with the Football League. That Howard Kendall was there to lead his team out was something of a miracle. Just a few weeks earlier, trailing in the quarter final to 3rd Division Oxford United with a few minutes remaining his job was not so much on the line, as tied to it, screaming for help as an express train approached. Kevin Brock rescued Everton, and Kendall, with an own goal and the phoenix began to rise from the ashes. Crowds, which were getting as low as 13,000, started to return as the team remembered how to win. The final was played on a grey March afternoon before 100,000 fans with spare tickets rarer than Mancunians. The match ebbed and flowed nicely but never truly caught fire due to the lack of goals. However, there were highlights, notably a startling miss by Ian Rush from under the post and a hand ball by Alan Hansen which went incorrectly unpunished. At the conclusion the crowd sang in unison for their clubs and their region. Without wishing to sound hackneyed this was a desperate period for football and the old fashioned decency on display that day was a welcome antidote to the contempt with which supporters were generally regarded. Liverpool won the replay at Maine Road thanks to Graeme Souness' blistering effort, but Everton’s renaissance would continue as they’d return to Wembley to lift the FA Cup in May.
No.7 1982 Everton 0:5 Liverpool
Otherwise known as the Ian Rush match. Rush had a stupendous goalscoring record against his boyhood heroes and it was never more evident than in this imperious dismantling of their heroes. To be fair Everton were hindered by the sending off of Glenn Keeley, who was making his debut after his signing from Blackburn. This was the sort of match that took Howard Kendall to the brink of unemployment, before he turned Everton into the country's best team in the mid 1980s. Even with a full complement of players it's highly doubtful that Rush could have been stopped. He finished the game with four goals, accrued from a striking master-class that emphasised him as the greatest goalscorer of the era.
No.8 1932-33 Liverpool 7:4 Everton (1st Division)
According to Wikipedia the two clubs shared the same match-day programme until 1932. Quite how that worked is anybody's guess. Whether the arrangement was stopped because of this goal glut early in 1933 is surely a historical mystery that may never be answered. Perhaps they just realised that it was a crap way of saving money. Anyway, Everton were the defending champions that season having won the league after being promoted as Champions from Division 2 in 1931. But that didn't matter in the wacky world of pre-war football where there were only 2 defenders and one of those tended to watch much of the game from a deckchair whilst smoking a pipe. In 1933, with the formidable goal machine that was Dixie Dean leading the seven man front-line Everton would score four times at Anfield. This would normally be enough for the points to be taken back across Stanley Park in a golden horse-drawn carriage. But not this time. Despite Dean's two goals (out of a career total of 383 for the club), Liverpool's Barton (life's too short for MD to try and find his Christian name) bagged a hat trick as his side romped to victory in an 11 goal epic, the highest in the 105 year history of the match. Both teams would finish in mid-table so the match wasn't especially profound. But the fact that the next highest scoring Derby contained only seven goals marks this one out for the Top 10. Had they been around at the time, even ITV might have captured some of the goals.
No.9 October 1978 - Everton 1:0 Liverpool (1st Division)
Everton hadn’t beaten Liverpool since 1971, comprising 15 long matches without a win, so this victory was long overdue for the Blue half. Tubby midfielder Andy King was the hero of the hour, scoring from 25 yards with a spectacular effort. The 1978-79 season was Liverpool at their imperious best, at least domestically. Although Nottingham Forest wrestled the European Cup from their grasp in the first round, they won the league with the rest not even in the rear view mirror. The goal they lost to was one of only 16 conceded in the campaign. Ray Clemence set a new record for clean sheets. Yet for Evertonians this was a glorious consolation. Famously, King was bundled off the field by a policeman as a BBC reporter tried to interview him at the game’s conclusion. The officer must have been a Koppite.
No.10 2006 - Everton 3:0 Liverpool (Premier League)
In the mid 2000s Everton closed the gap on Liverpool in terms of league position if not trophies. This was mainly been down to David Moyes’ astute management and expertise in the transfer market. Though he has had decent resources with which to build his team, he has spent far less than, for example, Newcastle and Tottenham since he began his tenure in 2002. In 2005 Everton even pushed Liverpool out of the top 4, though Liverpool of course qualified for the Champions League, thanks to a certain match in Istanbul. A year later the teams met at Goodison. Everton had got the season off to a flying start and tore into the Reds defence. Tim Cahill put them ahead on 24, before Andy Johnson struck a second, with Jamie Carragher badly at fault, twelve minutes later. In the 2nd half Liverpool came back strongly but Everton stayed firm and Johnson capped a fine personal display with his second goal in the last minute. This was Everton’s biggest win in the fixture for 42 years