Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Kenny Dalglish will walk on at Anfield with renewed hope

Kenny Dalglish never promised miracles on his return to Anfield — indeed he said Liverpool would have to walk before they could run.

The Kop may have hoped otherwise, that the reappointment of their greatest hero as manager would spark an instant upturn in fortunes after two years of regression.

His first week back in the job he left 20 years ago proved that would not be the case, an admittedly creditable loss at Manchester United followed by a humbling defeat at Blackpool.

Yet one thing Dalglish certainly knows all about is the passion and fire of the Merseyside derby.

He guided the Reds to two glorious Wembley final wins over Everton in the 1980s and quit his post first time around after a compelling 4-4 draw with the side from across Stanley Park.

Few could doubt he infused his side with plenty of drive and desire for the 215th edition of that local skirmish yesterday afternoon.

The occasion was always likely to be an emotive one but after giving Dalglish a rousing reception prior to kick-off, the home fans did not quite know how to approach the game.

Too many poor results and sub-standard performances under Rafael Benitez and Roy Hodgson had seen to that.

After the Bloomfield Road disappointment in midweek it was pointed out that after a change of owners and manager, what needed to be changed at Liverpool now was players.

No longer was it being said that they were under-performing, but simply that they were not good enough for Liverpool Football Club.

But yesterday the players met the fans halfway. The final result they wanted was not there but to produce the famous Anfield atmosphere of old the players had to give the crowd something to respond to.

That was their intention. Everton were not fazed, but Liverpool were not shirking tackles and Fernando Torres looked more like his old self.

Even without the inspirational presence of Steven Gerrard, the hosts attacked at every opportunity.

Confidence soared after Raul Meireles powered Liverpool into the lead after 29 minutes with a ferocious drive.

Liverpool could easily have added two or three more goals, such was their dominance.

The interval came at a bad time, however, and a lot of their good work was undone as first Sylvain Distin equalised and then Jermaine Beckford put the Toffees ahead.

Dalglish can take huge encouragement from the way they fought back with a spirit that was absent in Blackpool.

The Kop saw in Dirk Kuyt's celebration everything they needed to see in terms of desire. That was also apparent in the performances of Academy graduates Jay Spearing and Martin Kelly. Question marks will remain over whether the current Liverpool players have the ability to haul the club back to where they believe they should be.

Yet if Dalglish can continue to coax more displays of such quality from Torres, belief will not be extinguished.

Torres' loss of form over the past 12 months has been a major concern and his body language has, at times, left much to be desired. There was nothing wrong with that, yesterday, however.

The Spaniard did not score but he hit the woodwork and was a constant, pacey threat throughout. Liverpool and Dalglish appear to have enough to paper over the cracks for the time being. That may do for now — and it could buy the club the time they need to begin the major reconstruction they need in the summer.

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