x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Keane's magic defies his critics

Ten games in and Robbie Keane is finally proving his critics wrong with a solid performance against Everton.

Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring Liverpool's first goal.
Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring Liverpool's first goal.

There were many who felt Robbie Keane would never justify his £20 million (Dh138m) price tag. Overpriced and overrated they said, he had huge pressure on his shoulders when he made the switch from Tottenham to his boyhood idols Liverpool. Ten games in and the critics have had a field day as he has failed to trouble the scorers and his much-vaunted and potentially explosive partnership with Fernando Torres has failed to spark.

But for one day, Keane can ignore his past disappointment and afford himself a smile of satisfaction, a job well done in the game that matters most. Despite another anxious start, in one moment he decided the outcome of this 179th Merseyside derby and something the Reds fans will not surely not forget. A burst of pace on the left and, right on the byline, he swung over an inch-perfect cross that just cried out for a Torres finish. The unmarked Spaniard duly obliged with a volley and the relief was evident after the 59th-minute opening goal, especially on the face of Keane.

He revelled in the celebrations and you could sense he was a changed man after that, hungry for the ball again and barely three minutes later he was involved in the second goal. He teased the Everton defence on the edge of the box before slipping a clever pass for Dirk Kuyt. Phil Jagielka blocked superbly, but the ball dropped invitingly for Torres who smashed home his second. He scored a third, but that was strangely ruled out for a foul. Game over and a victory Liverpool deserved for their efforts. A tight first half had seen neither Tim Howard or Jose Reina tested, but it was Rafa Benitez's men that always looked the team most likely. Everton have not won at home in the league this season and their confidence looked fragile. Not so for their Anfield neighbours and what would have sealed the perfect day was a 100th career goal for Steven Gerrard. After seeing the landmark goal disallowed against Stoke last weekend, there was no better day to hit the century mark, but he will have to wait a little longer after Tim Howard's flying save denied him. Described as "indestructible" on the eve of the game by Benitez, Everton know only too well how influential Gerrard can be and denied him the space to thrive. Through the towering Marouane Fellaini and Phil Neville, the home midfield snapped and scrapped. Tim Cahill should have done better early on when Mikel Arteta's corner caused panic and found its way to the Australian in the box. Usually goal-poachingly deadly in this kind of scenario, Cahill seemed to get into a muddle and sliced his effort disappointingly wide. Having won six of the last eight derbies at Goodison, Liverpool were the form team and it showed as they dominated the early possession. Most of it came from the left through Albert Riera. He set up Torres for a chance, but Jagielka made another crucial block. While Liverpool had the firepower of a Torres, Everton lacked any real threat up front through Yakubu, who was booked for trying to claim a penalty. The referee Mike Riley might have got that one right, but, having upset Sir Alex Ferguson last weekend with seven yellow cards for Manchester United, he might well have the Everton manager, David Moyes, disappointed too for his decision to dismiss Cahill. Yes, it was a late lunge from the midfielder on Xabi Alonso, but looked more yellow than red. But fate suggested this would be a day to see red as Liverpool showed they could well have a side to end their 19-year wait for the league title. akhan@thenational.ae