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Everything goes wrong for Blues in derby devastation.

Byline: David Prentice ANALYSIS

EVERTON know from bitter experience that derbies before the clocks go forward are never decisive in the grand scheme of things.

But Roberto Martinez will need every ounce of his famed power of positive thinking to rally his shattered Everton troops from last night's derby devastation.

Derbies this early in the season may not be decisive.

But they can be momentum changing.

And Everton have to arrest the slide from last night's carnage quickly to prevent a major jolt to their European ambitions becoming a fully fledged crash.

Last night's destruction was a curious hiding.

Everton had plenty of possession and more chances than you expect a team on the receiving end of a 4-0 defeat to have. But equally they could have been on the wrong end of the biggest Anfield derby hiding in history - the 6-0 savaging Dixie Dean's boys received in 1935.

An open, adventurous, pass-minded philosophy throws up anomalies like that.

Blues fans know all too well that defeated derby victims can bounce back.

Way back when the prize was altogether more glittering, the Blues won a match prematurely termed a 'title-decider' on February 22, 1986.

It took them eight points clear of their city rivals - and they still finished second.

Liverpool used that defeat as a springboard to mount an astonishing run of 11 victories from their last 12 matches.

Twelve months later the tables were turned.

Everton lost the battle - an opportunity to clinch the title on their neighbours' turf, but won the war with victory at Norwich nine days later and reclaimed the silverware.

It was a similar scenario the last time the Mersey duo were fighting over a Champions League spot.

Liverpool scored a psychological derby blow in March, but Everton bounced back to finish fourth.

Yet last night wasn't just a defeat.

It was a devastating, demoralising demolition.

And it exposed the shallow nature of Everton's squad against the leading teams.

Roberto Martinez has proved he can transform a football club's philosophy almost overnight.

He has showed he can mend a mindset that will send a team to Old Trafford and The Emirates with ambitions of victory.

And he has made it clear that he can inject positivity into the bleakest of situations.

But despite his qualification as a former physio, even he can't patch up an injury ravaged defence against the most potent strike partnership in the Premier League.

Better defences than Everton's have been unpicked by Sturridge and Suarez.

But when the Blues lost Sylvain Distin and Seamus Coleman, and forced Phil Jagielka through a late fitness test - the omens were ominous.

Antolin Alcaraz, so assured against the less challenging forwards of Stoke, Norwich and Queens Park Rangers, looked every inch a man who has not played a football match for three weeks.

The manner in which he dozed while Daniel Sturridge waltzed away from him for Liverpool's third goal was alarming.

While the loss of Coleman, who would surely have eyed Aly Cissokho's name on the Liverpool teamsheet like a junkyard dog eyes a juicy bone, was a big miss for the Blues.

John Stones is a classy central defender in the making.

But while he started his career at right-back, he didn't have anything like the adventure or the dynamism of the Irishman he replaced.

Frequently, when the match was still in the balance, he found acres of space down Liverpool's left - but chose all too frequently to cut back or cross from a deep position.

It wasn't just in defence that Everton's lack of squad strength told.

When Romelu Lukaku was stretchered off midway through the first half, only the willing but limited Steven Naismith was left to lead the line - while Ross Barkley so desperately wanted to make an impact on last night's fixture, but was limited by his lack of match action in the last month.

Gareth Barry, such an outstanding influence this season, suffered what could be politely termed, by his own exceptional standards, a meltdown - losing Steven Gerrard at the set-piece which provided the opening goal and giving away possession for the second.

Only the admirable Kevin Mirallas performed to anything like his highest standards - refusing to lay down and die even with the match long since lost, while Leon Osman made a difference - albeit slight - when he replaced Steven Pienaar at half-time.

To be fair, Everton had moments but lacked anything like the ruthlessness displayed by their neighbours.

Just before the crushing fourth goal, Everton had commanded 58% of the possession, but as soon as Luis Suarez got goalside of Jagielka - even with half the pitch to cover - the outcome was never in doubt.

It had never been in doubt since the moment that the team-sheets landed.

Of course, Gerrard was unaware of Everton's injury list when he compiled his captain's column for last night's programme.

He wrote: "After the 3-3 draw at Goodison Park in November most people will be expecting another spectacle. I hope that is the case.

"But from my experience when a derby is hyped up it tends to be a cagey affair. Because of where both teams are in the league right now, I think this will be a tight match. Just a single goal might decide the contest."

It was the only thing he got wrong. For Everton, everything that could possibly go wrong did.

This is now officially the longest period in Everton's history without a win at Anfield.

Martinez's adventurous approach may mean that Blues fans won't have to wait another 15 years for an Anfield victory, but last night's defeat will take even longer for them to get over.

The players must bounce back from it on Saturday.

CAPTION(S):

BATTLE: Everton's Phil Jagielka (second left) and Liverpool''s Jordan Henderson (centre right) challenge for the ball during last night's derby
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 29, 2014
Words:972
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