James Lawton: Gerrard serves notice of his desire to make an impact in South Africa

It wasn't a desperate performance from Steven Gerrard but with his head swathed in bandages, and his assignment out on the left requiring him to frequently scuffle against some quick and feisty Mexican ring-craft, nor was he always a picture of serenity. But when did you last see Gerrard striding lightly and looking like a man on top of a football destiny that for so long marked him down as one of the world's most commanding midfielders?

Not since Liverpool made their spectacular but utterly misleading statement that they were at last live Premier League title challengers last spring. Since then it has been uphill, often unrewarding work for the man who in more exuberant days was referred to by an awe-struck England coach Steve McClaren simply as "Stevie G". Here last night, though, Stevie G was required to carry a little more gravitas.

He did it splendidly and with a conviction that put flesh on the bones of his weekend statement that he saw the coming World Cup as maybe his last chance to make a significant impact on the international stage.

The thrust, and the composure of his work, was particularly impressive in the second half when he took over the captaincy from Rio Ferdinand. By then he had put aside the bandage applied to a head wound which came with a clash of heads and moved into the centre of midfield.

It was the time when Gerrard looked a front-rank performer again, quick and optimistic and perfectly equipped for the dynamic intervention which has always been his most compelling stock in trade.

On several occasions he brilliantly revived his chemistry with Wayne Rooney, once moving sleekly on to a return ball before being knocked down by a stretching Mexican defender on the edge of the box. Gerrard stroked the resulting free kick just a foot or so beyond a post, which was a shame for a man so plainly intent on serving notice that his days on the margin of major football events are about to banished – at least for the South African summer.

Perhaps the swiftly rising speculation that Jose Mourinho is reserving a role for him in the revitalisation of Real Madrid also had an invigorating effect on Gerrard – and certainly his England coach Fabio Capello must have been grateful Gerrard was stimulated enough to pull England back from the possibility of a dispiriting, even embarrassing humiliation by a Mexico who were so inept in early World Cup qualifying England's former coach Sven Goran Eriksson paid with his job. The Swede, now restored to the big show with Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast, is of course a master of the art of resurrection – and there were moments last night when Gerrard, who will be 30 on Sunday, was providing his own version of the procedure. As a footballer of authority and significant impact, that was.

Even before Capello moved him into the centre, Gerrard was plainly intent on making a major impact, something which he accomplished in the 34th minute when he took a short corner, accepted the return pass from James Milner and rampaged into open space. His cross was powerful and brilliantly placed, Rooney nodded it on and Peter Crouch got the ball over the line, not classically but with a flair for being in the right place at the right time, which no doubt did no harm at all to his hopes of leap-frogging Emile Heskey in the race to partner Rooney, who at times was only mildly majestic last night.

Gerrard has of course long been a fixture in Capello's plans but last night he won back a more vibranty status. It was the one of a player who seemed hell-bent on living on something more than mere reputation. There have been times at Anfield recently when such body language seemed to belong in another, more exuberant phase of Gerrard's life. Heaven knows there has been reason enough for this – and also, perhaps, for Gerrard to reflect on the damage that old agonising about whether he should stay loyal to his roots at Anfield or strike out for new horizons may have done to his chances of building serious achievement in an England shirt.

The other day he was saying that two years of agonising over the advances of Mourinho when he was at Chelsea may have cost him too many opportunities to cement his place at the top of the game. Last night, though, it seemed that Steven Gerrard had put away such musings and regrets. Last night he was playing for what was left of his future as one of the major performers in world football. The best of news was that it is still plainly one filled with the highest possibilities.

Pitch report

How did the turf behave last night?

0 mins Within the first 20 seconds, Rafael Marquez's pass to right-back Efrain Juarez bobbles off the pitch.

2 mins Flowing Mexican counter-attack is slowed down by the turf.

10 mins Goalkeeper Rob Green hesitant in controlling back pass from Glen Johnson.

28 mins Ball bounces oddly over Leighton Baines for throw-in.

35 mins Through ball slightly sits up for Carlos Vela to strike straight at Green.

74 mins Ball bobbles up just as Andres Guardado crosses, and weak effort is easily cleared.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape