By Greg Stobart at Goodison Park
Kenny Dalglish enjoys jousting with journalists but when asked about Andy Carroll he is almost guaranteed to give a prickly answer.
The Scot says he is he “delighted” with Carroll's contribution for Liverpool and that any pressure on the £35 million man is a figment of the imagination driven by a media “obsession”.
But Carroll's face when he scored the opener in Liverpool's 2-0 win in Saturday's Merseyside derby victory at Goodison Park told a different story. He may not be under pressure from his own manager, but Carroll knew he had to answer his critics.
For 70 minutes, Everton fans had taken great glee from reminding Carroll he had scored just two Premier League goals since his from Newcastle in January, taunting their great rivals with “waste of money” chants.
Then he scored. Anticipating Jose Enrique's cross better then the Everton defenders, he swivelled his hips to turn the ball in first time from close range as Liverpool finally broke down a stubborn home defence that had been playing with 10 men since the 23rd minute sending off of Jack Rodwell.
It was Carroll's first league goal of the season, and his first in 11 hours and 20 minutes of playing time, in front of the watching England manager, Fabio Capello.
Liverpool supporters will now be hoping the strapping Geordie has made a breakthrough and will go on to net 20 times this season, recapturing the form that convinced the Reds management to fork out so much money on him.
|GOOD KOP, BAD KOP?
| BAD KOP - ANDY CARROLL
|6.5||The relief on his face as he celebrated his first goal in more than 11 hours of League football said it all. Close-range finish was well taken but it shouldn't disguise a poor display from the £35m man, who is still lacking sharpness.
|GOOD KOP - LUIS SUAREZ
|7||Infuriated Everton fans with his perceived diving and theatrics, first in Rodwell's sending off and then in the award of the penalty. But he's a brilliant footballer and was Liverpool's main threat throughout the game.
|BAD KOP - DIRK KUYT
|5.5||Failed to add to his impressive record against Everton as he missed from the spot for the first time in his Liverpool career. Worked hard as ever but lacked quality on the ball.|
In the first-half, he was almost anonymous and did not have a single touch in the Everton penalty area, while his partnership with Luis Suarez is non-existent.
To be fair to Carroll, he improved after the break and won a couple of good headers that caused panic and had to be scrambled away by the hosts. But his general play still lacked subtlety, speed or skill and he will be hoping his goal will be the catalyst for improved performances.
And it is not like the problem was unique to Carroll. Dalglish praised his side's professionalism in getting the job done but much of their play was slow and ponderous.
The lack of energy in the Reds' attacking play was particularly clear in the first hour before the man advantage, with Everton tiring and Liverpool able to take control of possession and apply more concerted pressure.
Only Luis Suarez played with ideas and effervescence throughout the game. The Uruguayan always looked like the man who would make something happen in the final third, even though in infuriated Everton fans with his role in Rodwell's red card and Liverpool's first-half penalty, which Tim Howard saved from Dirk Kuyt.
Suarez found the net himself eight minutes from time to secure the three points for the visitors and send 3,000 Liverpool fans home happy.
They will also have been pleased to see Steven Gerrard play the final quarter of the game after the Liverpool captain replaced Charlie Adam in the 67th minute.
Dalglish has been very careful with re-introducing Gerrard to the team in his recovery from groin surgery. If Liverpool are going to finish in the top four this season, they need the midfielder fully fit and available for as many games as possible this season.
Gerrard looked comfortable on the ball at Goodison Park and will now be eyeing a return to the starting line-up for the massive game against Manchester United after the international break.
The problem for Dalglish is where he fits Gerrard into the team, and at whose expense? If you asked Gerrard, he would want to play in the role currently occupied by Charlie Adam, dictating play in central midfield.
It could be that Gerrard has to settle for a role on the right side of midfield. Jordan Henderson has played there for most of the season but the £20m summer signing was dropped on Saturday in favour of Dirk Kuyt. Despite missing a penalty for the first time in his Liverpool career, the Dutchman produced a solid performance and can always be relied on to put in a shift in that position.
Wherever Gerrard plays, his eye for a pass and his drive will be welcome for a Liverpool side that again looked one-dimensional at Goodison Park. They will not be able to get away with a similar level of performance against Manchester United.Follow Greg Stobart on