Rams v Liverpool - Report
Déjà vu for Rams as Reds nick it
It was a case of déjà vu for the Rams when another late strike, this time from Liverpool`s Steven Gerrard, left them on the wrong side of a 1-2 defeat at Pride Park on Boxing Day.
Only three days after conceding late to draw at Newcastle United, the Pride Park faithful watched in horror when Gerrard poked home from close-range in the 90 minute to give Liverpool the three points.
The Rams suffered another injury in the pre-game warm up, this time Stephen Bywater - who had played every game for the Rams this season - succumb to a shoulder injury he sustained at Newcastle and he was replaced by Lewis Price in goal, the Welshman earning his first league start for the Rams.
Darren Moore and Gary Teale overcame injury to take their place in the starting line up and Michael Johnson, who had just returned from his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday, was on the bench.
Liverpool made five changes from the side that beat Portsmouth on Saturday, with Steve Finnan, Andriy Voronin, Fabio Aurelio, Ryan Babel and Xabi Alonso coming into the side.
Another packed house was on hand at Pride Park and the Rams opened brightly, and they went close from Teale`s cross from the right on seven minutes. It caused problems in the Reds defence and Giles Barnes beat Jose Reina to the ball, the rebound falling to Kenny Miller who fired over from a tight angle, when a cross to the back post to an unmarked Steve Howard would have been a better option.
The visitors began to get into the game and in their first real attack on 12 minutes they were ahead, with a superb goal. Spanish international striker Fernando Torres was found on the edge of the box by Babel and he pushed the ball through the legs of Moore before beat Dean Leacock and blasting home from 10-yards past a helpless Price.
Torres was soon streaking away from the Derby defence again, though this time McEveley denied him with a saving tackle. Moments later Tyrone Mears showed why Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has shown interest in him, with a superb last ditch tackle to take the ball away from John Arne Riise's as the Norwegian burst clear.
Rams skipper, Moore was struggling to keep up with the speedy Torres and it looked like it would be a long day for the Rams backline. Then on 24 minutes Moore and midfielder Stephen Pearson collided into each other leaving the Scotsman injured and he left the field with what looked like a serious shoulder injury and he was replaced by Johnson, who went into the centre of defence with Leacock moving into midfield.
It was a poor first half with both sides struggling to create chances, although Liverpool had the best opportunities Babel firing wide from the right hand side of the box and Jamie Carragher fired over from close-range after the Rams failed to deal with a corner.
Paul Jewell made a change at the break with American midfielder Benny Feilhaber replacing Moore, with Leacock moving back to the heart of the defence. Moore was carrying an injury but it looked a tactical move by the Rams boss.
It was a different Rams side in the second half, and with Jewell`s half time address still ringing in their ears they took the game to the Anfield side. Liverpool lost big defender Sami Hyypia early in the second half, and there was a lift in the mood of the crowd as the Rams pressed.
Barnes` pace was causing problems for the Reds but the Rams couldn`t create an opening. Then Price came to the Rams rescue with a good save to his left on the hour from Alonso as the game became end-to-end.
But on 67 minutes the Rams equalised and Pride Park erupted. Eddie Lewis lifted a free-kick into the box from the right, which Liverpool failed to clear and it bounced around before McEveley fired past Jose Reina from close-range.
It was game on and Gerrard fired inches wide as the Reds pressed forward, but the Rams suffered another blow on 75 minutes. Second half substitute Robert Earnshaw injured a calf and became a passenger, as the Rams had already made their three subs.
Price again rescued the Rams with a stunning save to again deny Alonso from 30-yards on 83 minutes, and Torres fired wide as Liverpool looked for the winner. But moments later the Rams had the chance to win it; Lewis beat the offside trap on the left and crossed to Barnes who headed over from six-yards, the young striker should have hit the target.
The Rams were defending desperately but Liverpool skipper Gerrard was coming into his own, his 20-yard strike cannoned off the crossbar and it looked like the Rams would hang on for a point, but Gerrard had other ideas.
As the clock ticked over the 90 minute mark Gerrard made a superb 70-yard run down the left, he found Torres whose shot was saved well by Price, but McEveley tried to clear out of the hands of the Rams keeper only sending the ball to Gerrard who had followed up and the England international fired home from close-range, to win it for the Reds.
Derby: Price, Mears, Leacock, Moore (Feilhaber 46), McEveley, Teale (Earnshaw 56), Barnes, Pearson (Johnson 26), Lewis, Howard, Miller.
Subs Not Used: Hinchliffe, Fagan.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia (Benayoun 54), Carragher, Riise, Babel (Kuyt 72), Gerrard, Alonso, Aurelio, Torres, Voronin (Lucas 90).
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Mascherano.
Referee: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).
Derby manager Paul Jewell:
'There's not much justice in the game, particularly after battling so hard in the second half.
'I was bitterly disappointed with the first-half display, we looked frightened, scared of Liverpool.
'I couldn't wait to get at them at half-time, but in the second half we showed fight, and that is what the supporters want to see.'
'We were much better in the first half, but we could not kill the game off.
'That made it difficult for us. In the second half they were more aggressive and put us under a lot of pressure.
'We gave the ball away too much but in the end Gerrard scored, players like that will always come to the fore in the end.'