Gerrard hat-trick shows Henry the Anfield way

Liverpool 3 Napoli 1

John W Henry's wife, Linda, had wondered aloud what song she should learn for her first visit to Anfield. The familiar one about Steven Gerrard, which by the end was crashing around the grand old stadium her husband now owns, would be a good first choice.

There were some who imagined that with the club having to adjust expectations downwards, Anfield's great European nights may have been gone forever. It may have been the Europa League rather than the European Cup, but this match will happily take its place alongside the St Etiennes and the Borussia Monchengladbachs.

One of the many criticisms directed at Roy Hodgson is that he makes his substitutions too late. At half-time, a goal down and palpably outplayed, Liverpool seemed pedestrian and slightly lost on their own pitch. The Kop had been calling for their captain from the moment Ezequiel Lavezzi, who ordinarily would have been the man of this particular match, broke through.

They were granted their wish in a way only the most fervent believer could have predicted. His hat-trick came in 14 second-half minutes and from leading the group, Napoli suddenly found themselves flailing in third, the ground cut from beneath their feet.

Curiously, while Liverpool had spurned obvious chances to have scored – with Raul Meireles screwing his drive wide from the six-yard line and Jonjo Shelvey making a schoolboyish hash of a free-header – Gerrard's intervention came from nowhere.

Shelvey, who had been gamely pushing forward, was dispossessed and Andrea Dossena, who once shared a dressing room with Gerrard and who was involved in all three of Liverpool's goals, rolled his backpass to Morgan de Sanctis slightly too gently. His one-time team-mate slid in bravely, dramatically and effectively. "It was the actions of a man who was determined to get a goal for his side even at the risk of injury," his manager said. At the time, it appeared to seal a draw Liverpool probably deserved but which provided the platform for something altogether more extraordinary.

First, Salvatore Aronica clumsily challenged Glen Johnson in the area and once the French referee, Fredy Fautrel, whom the Napoli coach, Walter Mazzarri, thought susceptible to home pressure, awarded a penalty, Gerrard drove it home with a certainty that has become utterly familiar.

It was not over. Again Dossena stumbled, losing the ball to Lucas Leiva, who found his captain and Gerrard very icily chipped De Sanctis. He has made great interventions before – the second-half turnaround against Olympiakos which enabled Rafael Benitez's side to qualify for the knockout phases of a European Cup they would win – but by his standards until now this season he had been searching for his best form. As a revenge for the indignities and injuries suffered by Liverpool's fans in Naples a fortnight before, it was served icily chilled.

Above Anfield, the police helicopter clattered, outside Anfield there were police everywhere and inside Anfield the Kop defended the honour of those attacked by Napoli's ultras – the Mastiffs – by getting out their Italian dictionaries. One banner proclaimed Napoli Merda (Napoli shit) while, more cryptically, another asked their visitors to Usate Aqua e Sapone (use Soap and Water). It did its job – the 2,000 Italians in the ground were suitably inflamed, although they carried a banner wishing Diego Maradona, still their spiritual leader 20 years after he quit the San Paolo, a happy birthday.

Napoli were quicker and slicker and in the 27th minute, Christian Poulsen's misdirected header was nodded into Ezequiel Lavezzi's path by Edinson Cavani.

Liverpool responded well to going behind. Moments after Lavezzi's goal, Christian Poulsen had played in Ngog, who under pressure from his former team-mate, Andrea Dossena, drove his shot just wide. The applause was for the move and maybe for the fact that this was arguably the first time since his arrival on Merseyside that Poulsen had played the ball forward. Gerrard would do it rather more effectively.

Group K

Results so far Liverpool 4 Steaua Bucharest 1, Napoli 0 Utrecht 0; Steaua Bucharest 3 Napoli 3, Utrecht 0 Liverpool 0; Napoli 0 Liverpool 0, Utrecht 1 Steaua Bucharest 1; Steaua Bucharest 3 Utrecht 1, Liverpool 3 Napoli 1.

Liverpool's remaining fixtures 2 Dec Steaua Bucharest (a); 15 Dec Utrecht (h).

Liverpool (4-2-3-1) Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Konchesky; Poulsen (Eccleston, 65), Spearing; Shelvey, Meireles, Jovanovic (Gerrard, h-t); Ngog. Substitutes not used Hansen (gk), Lucas Leiva, Wilson, Kelly, Skrtel,

Napoli (3-4-2-1) De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Aronica; Maggio, Pazienza, Gargano, Dossena; Hamsik (Yebda, 84), Lavezzi; Cavani. Substitutes not used Gianello (gk), Grava, Dumitru, Santacroce, Zuniga, Sosa.

Referee F Fautrel (France).

Attendance 33,895.

Man of the match Gerrard.

Match rating 8/10.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all