Liverpool 3-0 Everton: It's Stevie 3 in Red derby rout
Published 22:01 13/03/12 By David Maddock
So much for a Liverpool crisis...there's no such thing with Steven Gerrard around.
The stats may have pointed to a side in worrying decline as Liverpool entered the 99th Merseyside derby at Anfield with just one league win in 2012, but since when have stats ever adequately covered the genius of someone like him?
Even words, never mind statistics, fail to do true justice to his sublime talent, but the bare numbers here will do for starters...his audacious, magnificent hat-trick destroyed Everton and their manager David Moyes' 10th anniversary celebrations.
The Blues boss had wistfully wondered before this game what he may have achieved in that decade at Goodison had he inherited a leader and midfield inspiration like Gerrard, and certainly, he was the absolute difference between the two sides here last night.
Liverpool have flailed desperately, and miserably, without his goals and without his drive in the middle too often this season, which explains why they lie so depressingly far off the top four spot their owners say is the minimum requirement. It may seem obvious, but without him, this would have been a very different game.
When he is fit and fired up, Gerrard not only wins games on his own, he changes the entire mood around the place. This was the first Liverpool league derby hat trick at Anfield in 77 years, and not only halted a run of three straight Premier League defeats, but transformed their fortunes going into the season-defining FA Cup game with Stoke at the weekend.
It was a hat trick remember, not from a striker, but a central midfielder whose main contribution was to control - in dominating fashion - the central area, before providing the bonus of goals the home team has struggled so desperately to find without him.
It was a fitting performance on his 400th Premier League appearance, taking his tally to 149 goals, and if it papered over the cracks even a little, not one Reds fan in the ground would begrudge him the singular spotlight.
The fact remains though, that Liverpool were always going to be right at it in this game because they have had absolutely no problems getting up for the big matches at Anfield this season...it is the so-called lesser teams that present the problem. It is against Stoke they must be truly judged.
Mind you, Gerrard couldn't have set that cup tie up better. Everton, depleted as their manager's gamble in resting players backfired, could never deal with his surging running and dynamic passing from midfield, and he undermined their hopes in the first half, before destroying their spirit in the second.
It was, in fairness, an even contest in the first half, with Tim Howard saving brilliantly from Gerrard and the trickily impressive Luis Suarez, before Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini came close for the visitors.
The pivotal moment came 34 minutes, the Reds captain beat down typical Everton verve and resistance to set up the victory, with a clever, instinctive goal, after Suarez chipped the ball forward and it deflected fortunately off Gerrard into the path of Martin Kelly - a constant attacking source for the Reds - whose shot was again saved by Howard.
Yet as Sylvain Distin turned on the loose ball, he sliced lazily and sent it spinning to the one person he shouldn't have, and Gerrard regally turned his instant left foot shot into the roof of the net for a fine goal and the undying love of the Anfield crowd.
Moyes has never won at Anfield, and if he still held any hopes of a first victory after that blow, then they were dismissed soon after the break as Distin again erred when he casually allowed Suarez to skip into the box on the right, and allow his skipper to smash gleefully into the roof of the net.
Game over. But still time for the skipper to confirm yet again he is one of England's few world class talents, as he gelled impressively with the quietly efficient Andy Carroll and the quicksilver Suarez to light up Anfield. A word too, for Jay Spearing, who gave his captain the platform to get forward at will.
His crowning glory came in stoppage time, when he combined once more with Suarez in the box, their 1-2 creating the space for Gerrard to rifle his left foot shot into the roof of the net.
Liverpool will still do well to reflect two things: first, arguably, all six of the outfield players Moyes restricted to the bench last night will start in the cup tie with Sunderland at the weekend, meaning Everton were under strength (though it will still be worth it should the Blues reach the semi finals).
Second, and perhaps more pertinently, we have been here before too often this season under Dalglish. The time to rejoice in this performance will be after Sunday, should they also reach the semis.
Mind you, it would be churlish to deny the genius of Gerrard after the single greatest derby display from a midfielder in a red shirt here in the past two decades, which allows one final point. How does Stuart Pearce feel now after ignoring him as England skipper? Let's hope the next boss is not so blind.