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The Merseyside slapfest

ESPN staff
October 25, 2012
Sander Westerveld and Francis Jeffers both saw red as Liverpool and Everton clashed at Anfield © Getty Images
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With Liverpool facing a goalkeeping dilemma ahead of this weekend's Merseyside derby against Everton, we rewind 13 years to a previous meeting of the two famous rivals when the Reds ended up with no recognised shot-stopper...

Liverpool and Everton... two clubs indelibly linked with an incessant will to win, steeped in a proud history not only of top quality football, but of fight, passion and a fierce defence of their city.

Down the years that capacity to fight has created some of the greatest hardmen in the British game: Liverpool's Graeme Souness was never shy of a stray stud or two, Duncan Ferguson knew how to use his fists, while even the scrappier characters like Kevin Keegan refused to give an inch when it came to high profile collisions - as highlighted by his Charity Shield fisticuffs with the abrasive Billy Bremner in 1974.

Unfortunately, on September 27, 1999, when a typically simmering Merseyside derby finally boiled over in the 75th minute, the two central characters - Sander Westerveld and Francis Jeffers - were less Keegan and Bremner and more resembling of two Essex boys 'fighting' over whose skinny jeans were more flattering. As seen in the picture above, even Jamie Carragher did not feel overly rushed to get involved in what was an embarrassing exchange.

It was handbags, but even with the lack of a meaningful punch Westerveld and Jeffers still gave those at Anfield the biggest flashpoint witnessed in a Merseyside derby for years.

Westerveld was hardly the figure Liverpool would have wanted in such a scenario. The well-groomed Dutchman looked at home in his high-collared goalkeeper's jersey and once reportedly refused to wear a new Liverpool kit unless the club listened to his alterations. For a man who arrived with a drop-kick nicknamed 'the bomb', the hands he aimed at Jeffers were more like feather dusters.

Jeffers was more of a surprise. Born and raised in Liverpool, the young striker looked born to scrap, yet when the moment came he did little that would have got him thrown out of any nightclub in the city centre.

The 'fracas' started when Jeffers was shoved into Westerveld, who responded with a slap. Jeffers returned the favour. Both men then shoved each other in the face, with the Liverpool man seemingly shouting "f*** off" in Jeffers' direction. Two red cards were predictably brandished, although referee Mike Riley might have breached the Trade Descriptions Act had he cited "violent conduct" as the reason for the dismissals.

The drama was far from over though, with realisation suddenly dawning on Liverpool fans that boss Gerard Houllier had made all three substitutions. Trailing 1-0 to Kevin Campbell's fourth-minute opener, Liverpool would have to play the last 15 minutes with 10 men, and with left-back Steve Staunton in goal.

Steven Gerrard saw red for a studs-high challenge on Kevin Campbell © Getty Images
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This was a big season for Liverpool, who were facing the completion of a decade without a league title - something they could not possibly have imagined when they lifted their 18th in 1990. Furthermore, the previous campaign had seen arch rivals Manchester United complete the famous Treble, so the 1999-2000 campaign resembled Houllier's first full season of a five-year plan.

Defeat to Everton left the Reds with three home setbacks as early as the end of September, and meant they trailed their neighbours in the league. Where Liverpool had plenty of possession on the night but did little with it, the visitors counter-attacked dangerously and deserved their 1-0 lead.

Things could have been worse for Liverpool too, with Michael Owen escaping a red card for a blatant two-footed lunge on David Weir in the 26th minute, on a night when the striker chalked up derby No. 5 without a goal. That he was let off by Riley must have been due to the fact he was England's golden boy at the time, only a year removed from his explosive World Cup debut, when he scored a magic individual goal against Argentina.

Riley's red card was destined to make more than one appearance though, and when Westerveld 'brawled' with Jeffers 15 minutes from time Staunton - known behind the scenes as a fine makeshift keeper - donned the gloves, much to the delight of the travelling Everton faithful.

Not that he hindered Liverpool's bid for an equaliser - far from it. With time ticking down he actually produced a fingertip save from point-blank range that Westerveld would have been proud of, but it mattered little unless the Reds could find a last-ditch leveller.

In years to come Steven Gerrard would become the club's one-man rescue act. But on this night he was a 19-year-old yet to make his England bow, and full of uncontrolled desire. That temper poured out of him in a shuddering late challenge on Campbell, which saw Gerrard clatter into the Everton man waist-high as if fired from a cannon. Riley's red was out again, and it was 10 v 9, with the nine playing without a keeper.

Few of the previous 160 Merseyside derbies could possibly have thrown up so much drama, so much comedy with which Everton fans could mock their neighbours. However, their delight proved short-lived.

What happened next?:
Liverpool recovered to finish fourth in the league, while Everton slumped from sixth to 13th. Furthermore, the Toffees' goalkeeping situation became so desperate seven years later that David Moyes brought in Westerveld as an emergency loan option. The Dutchman, who won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble with Liverpool in 2001, went straight into the team at Newcastle and conceded two goals. He conceded two more at West Ham and then never played for Everton again.

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