Gerrard - Different Class
Gerrard celebrates with Lucas after completing his hat trick...
Just as it seemed the cards were down for Liverpool, just when Napoli had capitalised on early strength, the boys in Red thought all hope was lost. But a certain number 8 had a totally different plan of action and when brought on by Roy Hodgson for the second half, Liverpool's game was lifted.
Hodgson fielded another youthful side with the likes of Spearing and Shelvey appearing. Ngog was up front and it was an experienced choice of defence in front of Pepe Reina.
The first half for Liverpool despite its moments was perhaps one to forget. Some half chances from Kyrgiakos and Meireles were our only real threats on the Napoli goal. The Italians however were gaining a hold of the game, Lavezzi was looking stronger and stronger and Hamsik was again causing problems in and around the penalty box.
Lavezzi pounced on his good start just before the half hour mark sending Napoli 1-0 up. A lovely headed ball through to Lavezzi allowed him to continue a smooth run and with a cool finish put the ball in the back of the net.
Liverpool had now been deflated, half time could not have come sooner. A few glances down the wings from Johnson and Jovanovic with another half chance from Ngog were the only moments to take from the dying minutes.
At this stage it was hard to see where we were going to get a win from, let alone the mentality to go out and turn the game around. But then it hit us all... Steven Gerrard is on the bloody bench, get him on!
And thankfully, Roy did exactly that. Replacing Milan Jovanovic, just the presence of the captain on the field appeared to raise everybody's spirits.
With the players now boosted, confidence seemed to come too. Shelvey who had a great game in Italy had a few frustrating moments in the first half but in the second although unsuccessful he was having some of his own shots at goal and troubling the Napoli defence.
Eccleston entered the field of play at 65minutes replacing Poulsen. Even more youth on the field, which is always superb to see but no matter how many times people tell me, you've got to give the youngsters a chance, i'll always stick with my guns. I'm always a fan of giving the academy lads a shot but have always stood by the fact that there also needs to be enough experience on the field to make a balanced side that these upcoming starlets can show off in.
Steven Gerrard is the epitome of that thought. When the youngsters aren't quite having their day and you have no other solid game changers on the pitch (due to experienced players being in defence yesterday) you can always rely on the sheer class of somebody like Steven Gerrard.
Scoring his first of three at 75minutes it was a relief just to be level. A goal structured via the determination of the captain after he chased down a sloppy pass back to goal by none other than Dossena, the goalkeepers efforts didn't prevail and our number 8 scored an entertaining equalizer.
With just 15minutes to go, it was an ask to get a winner from anywhere let alone another two goals from the same player.
An incident to note before Gerrard's second was the horrifying tackle on Ngog from Aronica. How the referee did not see this i do not know but surely it needs reviewing. A clear red card and David was lucky to even get up! A potential leg breaker if ever i have seen one, absolutely terrible tackle. Ngog shortly after was replaced by Lucas.
For Gerrard's 2nd he would be given more of an advantage. When Glen Johnson went on one of his pacey runs into the box it was another case of defenders not knowing how to deal with him. After Glen was brought down, the referee with no hesitation pointed to the spot.
Up steps Stevie. Rarely ever one to miss but you still get nervous don't you?! Nothing to worry about though as Gerrard puts us ahead with a lovely penalty to the far right of the goalkeeper.
Gerrard's penalty left us with less than 3minutes of full time left so i was fully expecting to see the "just hold on" attitude filtered through the pitch but oh no.
After Lucas Leiva chased down superbly to steal possession from Napoli and put a ball through to Gerrard, captain fantastic wanted to end the night in style. A scintillating chip over the keeper made it a truly fantastic finish and Liverpool could celebrate in style with a 3-1 win over Napoli.
What started with a slow performance and a real prospect of losing ended with a very convincing and well crafted win. One man doesn't make a team but dear lord if he wasn't in it we'd be in deep trouble!
John W Henry and fiancee seemed to have a top night and seeing our new owner punch his fist into the air after Gerrard netted his penalty is again another promising vision.
I too was celebrating in style after the win topped off my 21st birthday perfectly!
Next up is Chelsea on the weekend and what a story it would be if we could do them over!