Two of Liverpool's up-and-coming
youngsters, Jonjo Shelvey and Nathan Eccleston, aim to draw
inspiration from captain Steven Gerrard.
The England midfielder's hat-trick in the 3-1 victory over
Napoli last night capped an impressive 45-minute performance
after coming off the bench at half-time.
Manager Roy Hodgson has called for other players to start
easing the burden on Gerrard and striker Fernando Torres,
and although the two teenagers are not expected to
contribute significantly at the moment they cannot fail to
"It was great to be a part of that and Stevie is just
phenomenal," said the 18-year-old Shelvey, whose run set up
the equalising goal.
"Working alongside him every day in training he is just
special and the hat-trick was different class.
"I thought the whole team showed a never-say-die attitude
and it was a really enjoyable night."
On his contribution to the vitally-important first goal, the
England Under-19 captain, who joined from Charlton in the
summer, added: "I ran at the defenders but I lost the ball
and it was all about Steven and he got the ball through
Eccleston came on for the last 25 minutes and was able to
witness at close quarters the brilliance of Gerrard.
"Stevie speaks for himself and he has done that a number of
times for Liverpool and England," said the 19-year-old.
"It is just a real pleasure to play alongside him. The goal
he got for his hat-trick was frightening ability and he made
it look easy."
Jamie Carragher believes captain Steven
Gerrard is the best player in Liverpool's history and the
most influential of the Premier League era.
Gerrard came off the bench with his team trailing 1-0 to
Napoli in the Europa League at half-time last night and
produced a 45-minute performance which was head and
shoulders above anything else on display.
The 30-year-old turned the game around, scoring a hat-trick
in the final 15 minutes to put Liverpool on the verge of
qualification for the knockout stages.
"Stevie is just an unbelievable talent, we all know that,"
said Carragher. "We have seen him do things like he did last
night time and again during his career.
"But he keeps on producing when it matters and, to me, that
makes him the best player the club has ever had and the most
influential player ever in the Premier League.
"You could see the crowd responded to him when he came on in
the second half and he lifted everybody's performance."
After the game manager Roy Hodgson said he and the club owed
a debt of gratitude to the England midfielder, whose one-man
show helped keep alive Liverpool's mini-revival of three
wins and a draw in their last four matches.
"He was outstanding and we were able to get out of a tight
spot," Carragher told the Liverpool Echo.
"Thankfully we were able to get the win and now we have got
to make sure we can keep this run going for as long as
Linda Pizzuti, the wife of NESV's
principal owner John W Henry, has enthused on Twitter about
her very first visit to Anfield to see a match after
watching Steven Gerrard spark a stunning second-half
comeback against Napoli at Anfield last night.
Linda has been staying in Liverpool all week and after
announcing on Tuesday via her Twitter account that she's
"Enjoying time in Liverpool. Great Italian restaurant last
night, touring Anfield today, & exploring this cool city
when I can," she followed up by asking the LFC fans
following her on Twitter to help her prepare for Thursday
night's Europa clash by providing her with some song
recommendations on Wednesday night by tweeting: "Studying up
in the Anfield songbook to prepare for my first LFC match
tomorrow night-can't wait! Aside from YNWA, what songs
should I learn?"
Throughout the game Linda and her husband looked enthralled
by the action on the pitch and the atmosphere off it and
judging by her Tweets after the game, the Kop certainly made
its mark on the lady from Boston.
"Wow! Anfield really is a special place!"she tweeted after
the final whistle. "Fantastic match (certainly heard the
Gerrard song!) with first class and very fun supporters. The
"You're not singing anymore" chant at the muted Napoli fans
once we pulled ahead was a highlight...and finally
experiencing the famous Kop. Hearing, seeing, and feeling
the massive force, spirit, and fun of it is incredible.
Thank you for all of the song recommendations, sounds like
"The Fields of Anfield Road" is my next lesson."
It may have been a first time for John W
Henry, but it was something Liverpool supporters have
witnessed again and again.
On his debut at Anfield, the club's new American owner saw
Steven Gerrard ride to the rescue and transform an imminent
Europa League defeat into glorious victory while sparing Roy
Hodgson another inquest.
With a lacklustre Liverpool trailing to Napoli at the
interval, the call came. And how Gerrard responded, stepping
off the bench to score a remarkable hat-trick inside the
final 15 minutes and move the Anfield outfit to the brink of
Even by his own lofty standards, this was a special
achievement, the fourth and undoubtedly finest treble of a
And while Gerrard kissed the matchball at the final whistle,
Hodgson would have been forgiven for a similarly
appreciative gesture towards his captain.
Certainly, until Gerrard's intervention, the only real signs
of progress at Anfield had been in the directors' box rather
than on the pitch, where Henry was joined by new director of
football strategy Damien Comolli.
Henry was taking in his first match at Anfield since heading
New England Sports Ventures' £300million takeover of the
club last month, and if first impressions count for anything
then Hodgson can expect some taxing questions during the
pair's next meeting.
Wednesday's arrival of Comolli, a former director of
football at Tottenham Hotspur, was taken in some quarters as
undermining Hodgson's authority, despite the manager warmly
welcoming a change of structure to one which he is
A poor result last night would have been as badly timed as
Salvatore Aronica's dreadful second-half tackle on David
Ngog from which the Frenchman was fortunate to limp away
Instead, Liverpool have now registered three successive wins
for the first time since September 2009 and head into
Sunday's showdown with Chelsea with renewed hope.
But it so nearly wasn't the case. “Anfield Road, it's
nothing scary” read the banner in the away end and until the
75th minute it indeed seemed there was nothing to fear for
Napoli, Ezequiel Lavezzi having fired the visitors into a
deserved 28th-minute lead.
Yet from the moment Gerrard's sheer desire saw him bundle
the ball over the line ahead of Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De
Sanctis for Liverpool's equaliser, the tide turned
inexorably towards the home side. Now only a point against
Steaua Bucharest in December will be enough to book their
place in the knockout stages with a game to spare.
With only one European qualification in the previous 15
years, Napoli's supporters have been starved of grand
occasions and they were out in force at Anfield last night,
filling the away end well before kick-off along with
sections of the home stands to ensure a crackling atmosphere
inside the ground.
Liverpool's line-up was not dissimilar to the one which
earned a goalless draw in Italy a fortnight ago, but when
the onus last night changed from containment to creativity,
they were found wanting until Gerrard's introduction proved
the catalyst for a much-improved second-half showing.
Napoli's employment of three centre-backs invited Liverpool
to mine the flanks, something that has been largely absent
from their play this season.
The onus fell on Glen Johnson and Milan Jovanovic to provide
the required width. But while a Johnson foray down the right
ended with a Ngog angled shot at De Sanctis, otherwise
Liverpool struggled during an opening half-hour in which the
visitors demonstrated their danger on the counter-attack.
Edinson Cavani had already sliced a shot horribly wide from
a decent position when the Uruguay international wasted an
even better opening with a similarly wild finish after a
clever ball over the top from Lavezzi.
Lavezzi, Napoli's main threat, then saw an ambitious effort
drift wide from 20 yards before finally aligning his sights
to give the visitors a deserved lead on 28 minutes.
It was a poor goal for Liverpool to concede, however.
Christian Poulsen, man of the match in Naples, misjudged a
clearance and instead headed the ball backwards into the
direction of Cavani, who instantly nodded forward to send
Lavezzi clear with the striker confidently stabbing the ball
underneath Pepe Reina.
Poulsen immediately sought to make amends with a clever
one-two that gave Ngog a glimpse of goal only for the
Frenchman, under pressure, to slide his shot narrowly wide.
And while Johnson, cutting inside from the right flank, then
solicited a decent sprawling save from De Sanctis with a
left-foot effort, there was a lack of conviction in
Liverpool's response to going behind.
That all changed at half-time when Hodgson, perhaps having
learned his lesson from the Carling Cup defeat to
Northampton Town, introduced his safety policy in the form
Instantly, there was vim and vigour to Liverpool's play. And
they should have equalised on 51 minutes when Jonjo Shelvey,
making his first Anfield start, fed Raul Meireles inside the
area and the Portuguese midfielder's low cross was
sidefooted at goalkeeper De Sanctis by the unmarked Ngog
from six yards.
Liverpool missed another gilt-edged chance on 65 minutes,
Meireles turning and shooting wide from eight yards after
the ball had bounced to him off Ngog, before Gerrard curled
a free-kick narrowly wide after fellow substitute Nathan
Eccleston was felled on the edge of the area.
Then it was all down to the skipper. On 75 minutes, a mazy
run from Shelvey appeared to have been curtailed by Andrea
Dossena's intervention. But the former Liverpool's pass to
keeper De Sanctis was just short enough to give Gerrard the
chance to slide in and deflect the ball off the goalkeeper.
Then, with two minutes remaining, Salvatore Aronica upended
Johnson in the box and Gerrard coolly converted from the
And the captain completed a quite remarkable treble a minute
later when a robust challenge from substitute Lucas Leiva on
the hapless Dossena sent Gerrard clear and he clipped the
ball brilliantly over De Sanctis.
Henry leapt to his feet in delight. Comolli warmly
applauded. Hodgson breathed a sigh of relief. But all three
knew this was Gerrard's night. Yet again.
Roy Hodgson saluted the 'outstanding'
impact of Steven Gerrard after the skipper came off the
bench to fire home a second-half hat-trick in the 3-1 Europa
League win over Napoli on Thursday night.
The Reds' hopes of strengthening their place at the summit
of Group K had looked to be in danger after Ezequiel Lavezzi
had given the Italians the advantage with a smart finish on
However, the half-time introduction of Gerrard inspired a
revival, leaving Hodgson delighted with the No.8's
He told his post-match press conference: "He was
outstanding. I think that in the first half we hadn't played
that badly. I thought we were a bit unlucky to be a goal
down at half-time to an error that was punished.
"But certainly in the second half his entry onto the field
was a catalyst. It galvanised the crowd and the team. The
way he scored the first goal epitomises the energy and
spirit the team showed in the second half.
"I'm delighted we got a reward for it but we do owe a big
debt of gratitude to him. But I'm sure he'd be the first to
join me in saying that it was a good team performance in the
second half as well.
"Even though he will get the plaudits, he'll agree that the
whole team played well after the break and we deserved to
win the game."
He added: "I thought tonight was a real leader's
performance. That goal that got us the equaliser wasn't a
pretty goal; it was a captain's goal, one of a guy who
wanted to get his team back into a match and who was
determined to get the ball into the net. That is certainly
appreciated by me and my staff as well as the crowd."
Asked if he would have preferred to have rested Gerrard for
the clash rather than introduce him in place of Milan
Jovanovic at the interval, Hodgson added: ""I wanted to win
the game. At half-time I felt the best chance we had of
winning the game was to bring him on. I suppose had we been
two or three up at half-time it would have been nice to wrap
him up in cotton wool.
"But Steven likes to play. He's like Jamie Carragher and
Pepe Reina - they want to play. They don't seek rest
periods. They understand what I'm trying to do but they
don't seek it themselves. There's never any problem if I
want to put them on. They are the first to put their hand up
and say 'if you need me, I'm there', which is great."
The victory over Napoli means Liverpool have now notched up
three wins on the spin.
Hodgson admits he is delighted his team have got their
season back on track but has warned of over-confidence ahead
of a crunch meeting with Chelsea on Sunday.
"Well we've got to be careful," he said. "We play Chelsea
next and that's a very tough game. If I say yes and we lose
then I look like a mug and I don't want to do that.
"The longer we work together the happier I am with the way
the team looks on the field. But there's still work to do.
Everyone knows that; the players and the people I work with.
But certainly it's nice to have three straight victories -
you don't get that too often at this level of football. It
would be nice to make it four.
"To do well in a league like we are playing in, you need a
consistency in your performance and we need to do that week
The boss was also quizzed about the fitness of David Ngog
after the striker sustained a knock to his shin late on.
Hodgson added: "We are assessing it. We didn't take him off
because of the knock on the shin, we took him off because of
a little bit of cramp. He worked very hard during the game.
But it was a bad challenge. I can only hope he'll be okay
for Sunday because quite frankly we are a little bit light
in the forward department.
"If we lose him we don't have the same quality of option to
play two up front or replace Fernando Torres if that was to
be necessary in the game."
Liverpool match-winner Steven Gerrard
shared the credit with his team-mates despite
single-handedly earning them a 3-1 win over Napoli.
Gerrard's late second-half hat-trick inspired the side to a
Europa League victory which highlighted the gulf in class
within the squad.
The Reds were deservedly behind to Ezequiel Lavezzi's goal
after a dire first-half performance but the England
midfielder's introduction at the interval changed the
dynamic. Gerrard led from the front and scored three goals
in the final 15 minutes to extend Liverpool's lead at the
top of Group K.
Gerrard told five: "We went a goal down and the manager
asked me to come on and see if I could help get the lads
back in it. Every one of the lads in the second half was
His equaliser came from a 50-50 challenge with goalkeeper
Morgan De Sanctis after a terrible backpass and he said:
"For the first goal when you're put in that position against
a giant of a goalkeeper you've just got to go in and hope
for the best.
"There was no class involved, just determination and desire
and I don't think the keeper fancied it."
He added: "Everyone played their part tonight. I'm sure I'll
get the headlines but it certainly wasn't just about me."
Walter Mazzarri felt the referee was
“influenced by the atmosphere” at Anfield, but also
confessed Napoli helped Steven Gerrard to a hat-trick.
The Partenopei were leading 1-0 through Ezequiel Lavezzi and
largely dominated the first half, but ran out of steam and
succumbed to a Gerrard hat-trick in the final 15 minutes.
“I did not like the way the referee dealt with the game in
the second half, but we were also naive, such as in the
incident for the equaliser,” the Coach told Mediaset Premium
after this 3-1 loss.
“We did, in any case, put in a good performance in a game
where during the second half the referee let play run too
often and that tipped the scales in Liverpool’s favour. I
think he was influenced by the atmosphere.”
Mazzarri did not mention Salvatore Aronica’s horrific tackle
on David Ngog, although the same defender gave away a
“He got his leg, but it was not intentional. In the first
half there were many similar incidents and nobody got a
yellow card for that.”
Napoli also shot themselves in the foot with some defensive
howlers, as former Liverpool player Andrea Dossena’s weak
backpass was intercepted by Gerrard.
“Gerrard is a great player, no doubt, but if we hadn’t been
so naive as to put that backpass in there...”
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard came to
his side’s aid once again as his late hat-trick inspired the
side to a Europa League victory against Napoli which
highlighted the gulf in class within the squad.
The Reds were deservedly behind to Ezequiel Lavezzi’s goal
after a dire first-half performance but the England
midfielder’s introduction at the interval changed the
Gerrard, as he always has, led from the front and scored
three goals in the final 15 minutes to extend Liverpool’s
lead at the top of Group K.
It also made it two wins and two draws in the last four
matches and ensured the side’s mini-revival did not come
crashing to an end before it had chance to gather momentum.
That Gerrard made such a difference highlighted the
deficiencies on the playing staff at Anfield, with the side
operating the vast majority of the second half with five
central midfielders in a variety of other positions.
The captain put the rest of his team-mates to shame.
Newly-appointed director of football strategy Damien
Comolli, watching alongside owner John Henry, must be
wondering how he is expected to bring in talent to match
that of Gerrard’s, such was the midfielder’s influence on
But both Henry and Comolli would have been disappointed with
how quickly Liverpool were put on the back foot by the
lively visitors in the first half.
Equally worrying was the number of times they gave the ball
away, a failing which ultimately cost them as one such
occasion led to Napoli’s goal.
Lavezzi looked dangerous from the start and his shot forced
a corner off Paul Konchesky, with his next intervention
releasing Edinson Cavani through the inside-left channel
only for the Uruguayan to blaze over.
The provider was slightly closer himself when he seized on a
misplaced pass by Jonjo Shelvey to run at the Liverpool
defence and fire a shot just wide of Jose Reina’s left-hand
Pressure was starting to build and Glen Johnson, returning
from a thigh injury after a four-match absence, was the
first player to be booked for hacking at the back of
Cavani’s legs before the Reds cracked in the 28th minute.
Christian Poulsen’s aimless back-header in the centre circle
was picked up by Cavani on the left and he slipped a pass
through to Lavezzi who calmly steered the ball under Reina,
sparking wild celebrations for the visiting fans – many of
whom had managed to acquire tickets in a corner of the main
The response was for David Ngog to stab wide from Poulsen’s
pass and Johnson to force a regulation save out of Morgan de
But manager Roy Hodgson had already seen enough and sent
Gerrard out to warm-up 10 minutes before the interval, with
the captain reappearing for the second half at the expense
of Milan Jovanovic.
It took just 11 seconds for Gerrard to get into the game,
winning a tackle with typical aggression before moments
later inducing a foul from Andrea Dossena which earned the
former Liverpool defender a booking.
The England midfielder’s presence had certainly had the
desired effect, even if it did mean the side now had even
less width with five central midfielders on the field.
Ngog and Shelvey wasted chances before Meireles missed the
target from eight yards after latching on to Ngog’s loose
Gerrard curled a free-kick just wide from the edge of the
penalty area but it was his sheer determination which
brought the equaliser in the 75th minute.
Shelvey’s run appeared to be petering out when Dossena did
his former club - where he endured a miserable time – a huge
favour by diverting the ball towards De Sanctis.
Gerrard sensed an opportunity and charged in with his lunge
enough to divert the ball past the goalkeeper.
Salvatore Aronica’s 88th-minute trip on Johnson presented
the captain with a penalty to double his tally and he duly
In the directors’ box Henry punched the air but he had
barely sat down before Gerrard completed his hat-trick and
sealed the victory, cleverly dinking the ball over De
Sanctis from substitute Lucas Leiva’s through-ball.