Premier League - Everton spoil Dalglish's return

Sun, 16 Jan 16:02:00 2011

Kenny Dalglish failed to secure a win on his Anfield return as Everton claimed a 2-2 Premier League draw at Liverpool.

Liverpool needed a Dirk Kuyt penalty to earn a point, after they threw away the lead with a spectacular meltdown early in the second half.

Raul Meireles had given Liverpool the lead just before the half-hour, before Everton went in front through goals from Sylvain Distin and Jermaine Beckford on 46 and 52 minutes.

It was a frustrating afternoon for Dalglish, whose side ended their losing streak under his stewardship, but could only blame themselves for failing to claim maximum points from a much-improved display.

Dalglish was making his first appearance as manager at Anfield in 20 years - his last match was a goalless FA Cup tie against Everton that led to his resignation.

The Scot received a rapturous ovation, although the banner proclaiming "King Kenny is cooler than The Fonz" provided a sad commentary on just how long it is since Liverpool were genuine title contenders.

If they can sort their defending out, Dalglish's second reign should provide plenty of happy days, even if the present side are clearly not ready to challenge for silverware.

Anfield was energised by Dalglish's return, Fernando Torres looked rejuvenated, and Meireles finally looked like the £11.5 million midfielder signed by the much-maligned Roy Hodgson.

Even Glen Johnson, who has endured a season so bad he has been reduced to trading barbs with Paul Merson, thrived in his unfamiliar left-back role.

Torres was on his game from the first whistle, getting his first shot on target after just 14 seconds with a hopeful attempt from wide on the right.

Academy product Jay Spearing got his chance in central midfield, in the absence of the suspended Steven Gerrard.

He made a nervous start, giving the ball away to Beckford who raced through on goal - but the striker proved equally edgy, firing high and wide with Pepe Reina off his line.

Torres continued to exert his influence, and came agonisingly close to opening the scoring on 17 minutes, when he dribbled past Distin and Johnny Heitinga, and saw his left-foot shot come back off the far post, before Kuyt's follow-up was deflected over.

With Louis Saha injured and Tim Cahill away at the Asian Cup, Everton started with Victor Anichebe and Beckford up front, and the latter again showed his limitations when he failed to get on the end of a Marouane Fellaini knockdown - Cahill would surely have been more alert.

The goal came just before the half-hour mark after a Johnson cross found Kuyt. Howard produced a double save to deny the Dutchman, but the ball made its way to Meireles at the edge of the area, and the Portuguese lashed a powerful shot into the roof of the net.

Torres then brought a good save from Howard before Maxi Rodriguez skied the rebound, and Liverpool were in the ascendancy.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos replaced the unwell Daniel Agger at half-time, and although the Greek was not directly responsible for either goal, the defensive reshuffle cannot have helped as Liverpool imploded dramatically.

Within a minute of the restart Everton were level, as Mikel Arteta's cross found Distin at the back post, who outjumped Martin Skrtel and headed goalwards - Johnson could not clear off the line.

Then, on 52 minutes, Everton were in front, as Leon Osman found Beckford with a deft pass inside the box and the striker finished low into the right corner.

That goal prompted gleeful chants of "You're getting sacked in the morning" from the travelling fans, but their joy was to be curtailed.

In the 67th minute, Howard brought Maxi Rodriguez down with a clumsy challenge in the box, and referee Phil Dowd had no hesitation pointing to the spot - Kuyt converted the penalty, sending Howard the wrong way and rolling it into the left corner.

Alex Chick / Eurosport

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