Dalglish wins over Kop with nail-biting derby draw
Dirk Kuyt penalty restores equanimity after Everton look like spoiling Kenny’s first home game
Liverpool 2 Everton 2. Kenny Dalglish may have been in the Liverpool hot seat for less than a fortnight but he’s already done what predecessor Roy Hodgson failed to achieve in six months – win over the Kop.
Dalglish was given a rousing ovation on his first match in charge at Anfield, with one banner proclaiming he was "cooler than the Fonz" while he was serenaded to his dugout with a passionate rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone.
But the happy days Dalglish hopes to bring back to Liverpool were thwarted by an Everton comeback that gave them the share of the points in a stirring Merseyside derby.
Nonetheless Dalglish, who enjoyed 14 years at Anfield first as a player and then during his first managerial spell, knows just what to say to keep the Kop happy, and he was full of praise for the Liverpool faithful. "It was emotional for me to be back in the dugout and the response I got from the crowd was very much appreciated," he told reporters.
"More importantly was the way they stuck with the players who went out there and started very brightly with a shot inside the first minute. That got the fans on their side and it is very important that everyone does what they can for this football club - whether it's the players lifting the supporters or the other way around."
Certainly the Liverpool on display in the first half was a different team to the listless bunch that did the famous red shirt a disservice in the first half of the season, despite the absence through suspension yesterday of captain Steven Gerrard.
The desire and determination appears to have returned to the team and Fernando Torres looks a changed player under Dalglish to the disinterested one who so infuriated Hodgson. The Spanish striker, making his 100th league appearance for Liverpool, caused no end of problem to the Everton defence in the first period and hit the post on 16 minutes after a surging run into the visitors' penalty area.
Liverpool took the lead on 29 minutes when Raul Meireles was on hand to score his first goal for the club after Dirk Kuyt's initial header had been parried by Tim Howard in the Everton goal. Torres nearly made it two a few minutes later but his fierce shot was blocked by Howard and Maxi’s follow-up header sailed over the crossbar.
After the interval, Everton made Liverpool pay for their profligacy as the home side struggled to maintain the momentum of the first half. With just 45 seconds gone of the second period the Toffees levelled when Sylvain Distin headed home Mikel Arteta's corner. And the Kop was stunned into silence on 51 minutes when Jermaine Beckford fired past Pepe Reina to give Everton the lead.
Having suffered two away defeats to Manchester United and Blackpool in the past seven days, Dalglish was facing the prospect of a disastrous beginning to his return to the Liverpool throne. But then came the final act in the drama.
Howard tripped Maxi in the area and referee Dowd had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. Kuyt drilled home the spot kick and though there were still 22 minutes on the clock, Dalglish’s first Merseyside derby in 20 years finished all-square.
"It helps if we are all in it together," Dalglish said later, conscious that Liverpool remain in 13th spot just four points above the relegation zone. "I think today showed that we all care about the club. So maybe we can turn it around sooner rather than later.
"The best way to turn it round is put our words into performances. I have not been surprised negatively by anyone since I came here. I've been really pleased with attitude." ·