It was a year that saw Steven Gerrard a bit-part player at Liverpool, persistently injured, unable to save Roy Hodgson's tottering regime or enjoy the revival engineered by his idol, Kenny Dalglish.
However, after his first goal since October helped overcome Newcastle in a 3-1 win that saw Liverpool out of the Champions League places only on goal difference, his manager said there was much more to come from his captain in 2012.
“When Steven is not playing, he is influential and you could add the word 'hugely' in front of influential when he is playing,” Dalglish said. “He is working his way back to full fitness and he has always been a huge asset to this football club. He has got a lot of years to go yet.”
Gerrard, who is 31, scored only his second League goal of a truncated season. The other had come against Manchester United in one of seven draws that have hindered Liverpool's progress this term under Dalglish, who remarked that last night's victory was the fixture in which they had created the least number of chances.
“If we got what we deserved in every other game, then our position would not be unreasonable,” said the Liverpool manager, who added that the Football Association might investigate Yohan Cabaye's studs-up tackle on Jay Spearing. Replays suggested it was similar to the one that saw Wolverhampton Wanderers' Nenad Milijas dismissed at Arsenal on Tuesday.
Gerrard expressed relief that his comeback that began in the 1-1 draw against Blackburn on Boxing Day had progressed smoothly. “I have had a terrible year with a lot of injuries but I just want to look forward now,” said Gerrard. “I think of late we have not got what we deserved.
”We have put a lot of pressure on teams and not come away with maximum points so it is really pleasing to have taken three points and scored three times because we have had some criticism for not scoring enough.“
Andy Carroll, who was the night's chief focus facing the club that had sold him to Liverpool for £35m in January, did not find the net, though he did hit the bar. His return of two Premier League goals this season remains an unconvincing total and he did not take advantage of Luis Suarez's one-match absence for making an obscene gesture during Liverpool's 1-0 defeat at Fulham earlier this month.
Nevertheless, there appeared a genuine willingness among Carroll's team-mates to try to create something for the striker. ”I think he did everything tonight but score,“ said Gerrard. ”He was very unlucky but, if he keeps applying himself like he did, I am sure the goals will come.
“It is down to the rest of the players to provide service to him and remember that we are in this together,” he added.
For Newcastle, this was another reality check after a strong beginning to the game. They have won just one of their last eight matches and taken a single point from encounters with both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool.
“If we had been a little bit more positive, we could have got something out of the game,” said the Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew. “We have had a terrific year – 10 defeats in 12 months. We have changed our style, shipped a lot of big characters out and shown in this calendar year we can be a force.
”But you have to look at Liverpool tonight; the quality of their individuals and the depth of their squad. They began as the sixth-best team in the Premier League and that is a big jump for us.“
Liverpool's second goal came from a cheap free-kick given away when Cheick Tioté fouled Daniel Agger and Pardew felt that incident changed the game. ”I thought it was a tough call on us because I think Cheick played the ball and we followed that up with an error,“ he said.
”Even at 2-1 when it looked like the game might get away from us we had a great moment with a fantastic pass and finish for Demba [Ba] and the defender [Martin Skrtel] has had to do terrifically well to stop us getting in the game."
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