Having banished the unease around Liverpool with the first hat-trick in a Merseyside derby in 30 years, Steven Gerrard urged his team-mates to take responsibility for their own performances.
While his manager, Kenny Dalglish, has with some justice talked about the ill luck of a side that has struck the frame of the goal 21 times this season, Gerrard said the ultimate test was whether Liverpool could put the ball in the back of a net. They faced Everton with the lowest shots-to-goals ratio of any Premier League team.
"You can talk about luck and things not going your way but you have to take responsibility for putting the ball in the back of the net," the Liverpool captain said. "The performances have been really good. The big picture is that the squad is a lot stronger and we are moving forward. However, unless we have an end product, we are going to find ourselves sixth or seventh in the league and that is not what we want."
It has been a trait of Dalglish's first full season back at the helm that Liverpool have raised their game for the grand occasions while performing wastefully and often woefully against clubs they might be expected to beat. They have knocked both Manchester clubs out of the FA and Carling cups and convincingly won at both Stamford Bridge and the Emirates Stadium. However, they have failed to beat Wigan and fell apart at Bolton. Unless Liverpool can make up a point a game on Arsenal in their final 10 fixtures, they will miss out on the Champions League for a third successive season.
"It is a mountain to climb but we will not give it up until it is mathematically impossible," said Gerrard. "At times against the teams outside the top four we have been inconsistent. To do well in this league, you need to beat the teams who are down there as well.
"The Premier League is getting stronger each year. You can't choose when you turn up. You can't be eight out of 10 one week and then deliver a two or a three, otherwise teams down there will beat you – as the games at Bolton and Sunderland showed. If you don't compete against these sides, you will be beaten."
When Gerrard paraded the Carling Cup at Anfield, there was a sense that it was not quite enough to make this a successful season at Liverpool, although were it to be combined with the FA Cup, the absence of the Champions League might not feel so acute. Overcoming Stoke, who have not won at Anfield since 1959, would guarantee a semi-final at Wembley.
"To take the fans down to Wembley twice would be a fantastic achievement," said Gerrard. "That is why we have to treat Sunday's game with Stoke as a cup final. It is as simple as that."