Aquilani so delighted to be Kop idol

Italian hopes goal against Portsmouth can be turning point in Liverpool career
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The Independent Football

The Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani feels that he has finally arrived at Anfield after scoring his first goal in front of the Kop, and is keen to have a major say on the remainder of the club's season.

The £17m summer signing was instrumental in the Reds' 4-1 Premier League defeat of Portsmouth on Monday and finally answered many of his critics who have questioned whether he could cut it in the Premier League.

While crisis-hit Pompey did not offer much in the way of opposition, the match provided the Italy international with the chance to show off the talents which have been kept under wraps for so long by the Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez.

On only his fifth Premier League start and 17th appearance in all Aquilani scored his first Liverpool goal during a six-minute first-half scoring spree and produced a sublime through ball to set up Fernando Torres' second and the team's fourth in the second half.

Aquilani has not yet answered all the questions which were posed on his arrival last summer – including, crucially, whether he can perform against the top sides or in the real heat of a midfield scrap – but feels he is now at a level where he can influence games. "When I arrived, I looked at the Kop and said I wanted to score in front of it," said the 25-year-old, who has been troubled by numerous fitness problems since his arrival from Roma after the departure of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid.

"Now I have done that and I am very happy. But above all, the big thing was that we played well and won. It has been a difficult season for me because I have had a lot of injuries but now I feel fit and am right to play.

"I had a chance against Portsmouth and I had to take it. I have waited a lot of time but I am very happy because we won the game. We won 4-1 and it was a really good performance; one that we really needed.

"Can I do better? Everyone can do better, but Fernando is a great player and it is easy to play with him and Stevie [Gerrard]."

It remains to be seen whether Aquilani will keep his place for tomorrow's Europa League visit of Lille, who lead 1-0 from last week's first leg, and his participation in what is likely to be another blood-and-thunder encounter against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday appears even less likely.

But whether his display against Portsmouth will turn out just to be an impressive cameo or the turning of a corner, Aquilani is focused on helping Liverpool improve.

"We have to take things step by step now. We can only think about Sunday after Thursday," he added. "We need to win a lot of games to get into the top four and this was the first. It was a really good performance; one that we really needed."

Benitez stands by his assertion that Aquilani was a signing for the long-term and that people possibly will not see the best of him until next season. But he was pleased to see the player starting to blossom in the Premier League. "We had Javier Mascherano and Alberto controlling the game and the tempo and that was really good," said the Spaniard of Monday's performance. "That will be important [for Aquilani]. He has to improve his match fitness and he has to play – he played 90 minutes against Portsmouth which was a good opportunity for him.

"We will see now [whether he can continue] as we have too many games in a short time so it will be important to have all the players available and ready. He can play some games like Mascherano, Lucas Leiva or Gerrard. It depends on the player, the opposition and if the player is fit or not.

"You have to analyse these things together but the great thing, as a manager, you can see the players in every single training session and that is the key for us."