Steven Gerrard has explained how West Ham “tried everything” to derail Liverpool’s Premier League campaign ahead of their 2-1 victory at Upton Park on Sunday by making conditions for the Reds as uncomfortable as possible.
The Liverpool captain has claimed that his side proved their steel and determination to win after coming through the difficult encounter, having has a turbulent build-up to kick-off as their team coach was prevented from parking in its usual bay near the stadium.
Due to congestion, the coach was forced to stop “a mile away” as Gerrard explained, with the league leaders forced to walk among fans to the Upton Park stadium. Upon their arrival, the England captain also noticed he visitors changing room was unusually hot and that the pitch was a lot dryer than usual – a factor that hindered Liverpool’s style of positive passing and slick attack.
The 33-year-old netted two penalties to overcome Guy Demel’s contentious equaliser and keep Liverpool on the path to the title, and the less-than-ideal build-up made the victory all the more sweeter for Gerrard, who is yet to win a maiden Premier League winners’ medal.
“It was a very tricky game,” Gerrard told LFC TV. “We got a bit more than we expected – a hot dressing room, a dry pitch and the bus had to park a mile away.
“I think they tried everything to upset us. It was a good test of our character. We needed to prove that we’re capable of fighting for this title and we did that terrifically well.”
Former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll, who remains the most expensive English player when he moved to Anfield for £35m in 2011, gave the Reds defence a tough workout, and collided with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in the build-up to Demel’s equaliser after the Belgian stopper lost the ball in the contact with Carroll.
“They were throwing 70-yard balls into our penalty box from every different angle,” added Gerrard. “They have got giants in there who are going up with their elbows and we stood really strong.
“We defended superbly and certainly deserved to come away with the three points. It shows we have a bit of everything. We have class, some skill and we have some steel. We have lads who can role their sleeves up and dig in. If you’d go back a couple of years you’d find a side that would have sulked and felt sorry for itself, but not now.”
After weeks of dismissing the Premier League title raced hinged on Manchester City’s trip to Anfield, attentions can finally turn to the top-of-the-table clash with Manuel Pellegrini’s side set to travel to Merseyside on Sunday. Both sides know that if they win their remaining matches, they will be crowned the 2013-14 champions, but while Gerrard has admitted that is indeed a big game, he has played down its billing as a title decider.
“It’s going to be huge,” the midfielder admitted. “People are already asking whether it’s a title decider but for me that’s nonsense. There’s still a long way to go.
“It’s another big game and it’s three points we need if we want to win this league. But it’s not a title decider.”
Gerrard has excelled since shifting to a deeper hold role under Brendan Rodgers this season, although he has still found the time to net 11 goals in his last 15 appearances, although he stressed the point that his tally had been boosted with his penalty responsibility.
“Obviously the goal tally has been helped by penalties,” said the midfielder. “The second [against West Ham] was a very nerve-racking one, just like at Fulham.
He also praised his midfield team-mate Lucas Leiva as the Brazilian continues his recovery from injury. Leiva has fallen out of the starting line-up due to the impressive form shown by others during his absence, with Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling all starring in recent months.
However, Gerrard feels that Leiva coped with his introduction to such a tight game very well, and was even more impressed with his display given his national manager Luis Felipe Scholari was in the stands.
“Lucas deserves a special mention,” praised Gerrard. “There was a lot of pressure on him because he has not played much of late. The Brazil manager was here and the ball he played for the second goal was right up there with Brazil’s best.”