Roy Hodgson delighted with Steven Gerrard performance

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The Independent Football

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson had to rein in the superlatives about Steven Gerrard after his captain's hat-trick secured a 3-1 victory over Napoli in Group K of the Europa League.

Trailing to Ezequiel Lavezzi's 28th-minute goal, Gerrard came off the bench for the start of the second half and proceeded to dominate the game.

His three goals came in the final 15 minutes, beating goalkeeper Morgan de Sanctis to a 50-50 for his first, firing home an 88th-minute penalty after Glen Johnson was fouled and then executing a clever dink over De Sanctis seconds later.

Hodgson had put Gerrard on the bench as back-up and was thankful he did after accepting before the end of the first half he had to make the change.

"At half-time I thought our best chance of winning the game was to bring him on," he added.

"Steven likes to play, him and players like Jamie Carragher and Jose Reina don't themselves seek rest periods.

"They understand what I am trying to do so there is never any problem if I want to put them on.

"They are the first to put their hands up to say, 'If you need me, I'm there'.

"I think he has been good in the games he has played for me. I've got to say I have been more than happy with everything he has done during my time at the club."

Asked if Gerrard was the best catalyst player in England the Reds boss added: "It would be easy for me to say yes because he is a player in a team I am coaching.

"But I've never really appreciated managers coming out and saying my good one is better than your good one.

"I think he is a wonderful player and I have always thought he was a wonderful player and he does a fantastic job for us.

"We owe a big debt of gratitude to him. I thought it was a real leader's performance.

"The first goal was not a pretty goal.

"That was a captain's goal, the goal of a guy who wanted to get his team back in the game even at the risk of injury. That is certainly appreciated by me and my staff."

Gerrard tried to spread the credit around the team but it was difficult to see past his individual performance.

"We went a goal down and the manager asked me to come on and see if I could help get the lads back in it," he said.

"Everyone played their part. I'm sure I'll get the headlines but it certainly wasn't just about me.

"Every one of the lads in the second half was just fantastic."

Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri complained about French official Fredy Fautrel but also criticised his team for conceding "silly goals".

"It became increasingly clear in the second half that the referee was happy to whistle for fouls for them and was giving very little to us - this changed the course of the game," he said.

"But we can't just blame the referee, we were also very naive due to our lack of experience.

"The first goal was almost like an own goal the way we gave it away and that changed the atmosphere in the stadium. We conceded silly goals."