Redemption for Gerrard as Liverpool turn heat on Allardyce


Last updated at 22:14 24 November 2007

If Steven Gerrard was looking to purge

the memory of his worst night in football,

he found just the right victims in a

hapless Newcastle side stumbling

blindly from one injury crisis to

another, lacking initiative, inspiration

and, in the end, just plain interest.

Furious United boss Sam Allardyce

kept his players locked in their dressing-

room for an hour after the match

for an inquest into their shoddy performance.

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Thrashed 4-1 by Portsmouth in their

last home game, here it could have

been worse. When substitute Ryan

Babel made it 3-0 with 24 minutes left,

the home fans were chanting "You

don't know what you're doing" and "Big

Sam for England".

"I had to point a few things out where

I think the problems lie and sometimes

right after the game is the best time to

do it," said Allardyce. "We've basically

gone out and not done the job. We're in

a difficult period and that escalated

into two very disappointing performances

and defeats here at St James",

which is the wrong sort of place to get


"We have to put that right as soon as

possible.We have to make sure we dig

ourselves out of this predicament.

We've hit rock bottom and only we can

get ourselves out of it.

"We'll try to do that by getting as

many players fit as we can and showing

a lot more grit and determination

to acquire a result. That was missing

today,particularly after the second goal

went in, which was particularly disappointing

from my point of view."

But this game was all about Gerrard.

On Wednesday night at Wembley, the

Liverpool captain may have been so

guilty of the same depressing defects that gripped Newcastle here,he almost

qualified for a black and white shirt.

When he grabbed his jacket yesterday

after being substituted by England

team-mate Peter Crouch 10 minutes

from the end, Gerrard could look back

on a job done so well that it merely

added to the frustration at his contribution

against Croatia.

This was an action man performance

and earned what, by Liverpool manager

Rafa Benitez's standards,was rapturous


"He played really well," said the Liverpool

boss. "He has a very good mentality,

a strong character and passion for

this club, which is important in football.

Hopefully it will be the same in

the next games."

Booed by a Geordie crowd still hurting

from England's ignominious European

Championship dismissal,Gerrard

began what should have been a onesided

rout with a blistering 25-yard

shot in the 27th minute after Lucas

Leiva had rolled a short free-kick into

his path.

Significantly, he raced towards the

large contingent of Liverpool fans to

acknowledge their cheers — for them

he can do no wrong.

He took the corner that led to Dirk

Kuyt scoring a fortunate second a

minute after half-time, and his breathtaking

one-two with Ryan Babel paved

the way for the Dutch midfielder to

make it three in the 66th minute.

If Fernando Torres had cashed in on a

small percentage of the opportunities

supplied by his skipper, he would have

ended his Premier League scoring

drought away from home with a hatful

of goals. To say he should have a hattrick

is a massive understatement.

"It was a sweet strike," was how Gerrard

described his own goal. "I'm a bit

disappointed we didn't win a lot easier."

And he acknowledged that while the

memory of England's disastrous defeat

is still fresh in the minds of fans,he and

his Wembley team-mates could be in for a hard time.

"I expect we'll get booed," he added.

"We let the country down by not qualifying

so from now until we get it right,

we're going to have to take some stick.

We've just got to get on with it and

play through it."

Fortunately for Gerrard, it did not

take long for the Toon Army to redirect

their disfavour. Both at the interval

and especially the end of the game, it

was their own players who were the

targets for their booing. That was understandable. Shay Given, fresh

from switching on the City's Christmas

lights during the week, must have

wished for a floodlight failure to turn

off the Liverpool power. As it was, he

denied Torres on the occasions the

Spain forward managed to hit the


It could hardly have been a gesture of

mercy when Benitez took Gerrard off.

It is not part of the Liverpool manager's

make-up to spare opposition further


Liverpool have a vital Champions

League qualifier against Porto at

Anfield on Wednesday and he needs

the kind of impetus and leadership

that Gerrard provided here if they are

to reach the knock-out stages against

all the odds.

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