Gerrard pleased by Reds return

Six months on the sidelines after a groin operation in March was

not an enjoyable time for Gerrard. So, after three substitute

appearances totalling just under an hour, he made the most of his

first start since his surgery with a goal. A man-of-the-match

performance would have been capped had his 68th-minute free-kick

through the gap in the wall, kindly provided by Ryan Giggs, proved

to be the winner. However, Javier Hernandez – surprisingly left on

the bench along with Wayne Rooney – denied Gerrard a triumphant

return to his rightful place at the heart of the side with a

close-range header nine minutes from time. But nevertheless, the

Huyton-born midfielder was glad to be back. “I didn’t realise what

I had until it was taken away from me for so long,” said Gerrard.

“So I am delighted to be back and be able to experience the emotion

of big games again. “It has been a frustrating six months watching

the lads from the stands and I much prefer to be out there having

an impact on the game. “It would have been the perfect day if my

goal had been the winner but it wasn’t to be.” An uninspiring first

half was soon forgotten after the break as both sides picked up the

tempo. Liverpool gained the upper hand when Charlie Adam was

tripped by Rio Ferdinand on the edge of the penalty area – which

could easily have earned the United defender a second yellow card –

and Gerrard clipped a low shot through the wall and past David de

Gea. But defensive lapses this season have cost Kenny Dalglish’s

side, who have kept only two clean sheets in the Premier League,

and when Martin Skrtel slipped defending a corner, Hernandez nodded

in Danny Welbeck’s flick-on during United’s best spell of the game.

Back came the hosts only to be denied by two brilliants saves by De

Gea, turning aside Dirk Kuyt’s shot from Stewart Downing’s cross

before acrobatically getting a hand to substitute Jordan

Henderson’s dipping volley. Dalglish admitted his players were

disappointed not to have extended their winning run over their

arch-rivals at Anfield to four games, and Gerrard agreed. “I don’t

know whether frustration is the right word but the lads were a

little bit disappointed that we didn’t hang on after we took the

lead,” said the England midfielder. “With the chances we created

over 90 minutes I think we deserved to just sneak the three points.

“I was really pleased with the lads how they played. “Both sides

showed each other too much respect in the first half and that was

maybe why it was a bit flat. “But in the second half we came out

really positive and we kept pushing for that winner.” With a

fully-fit squad, and Gerrard back in the starting line-up,

Liverpool are at their strongest for well over a year. And the

captain said that gives them confidence. “You sum a side up by how

strong your bench is,” he added. “If you look at our bench against

United, we had Craig Bellamy, Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson –

that goes to show how much stronger we’ve got over the last couple

of years. “It is a really big positive when you know you have got

big subs coming on, and we are really happy with how things are

going at the moment.” While Gerrard is impressed by the depth of

the squad, his manager still expects great things from one of the

club’s greatest players. “He is a really integral part of the club

and will be for years to come,” said Dalglish. “He is etched in the

history of the club and will hopefully have a few more chapters to

write yet.”