x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Gerrard escapes an FA charge

Rafa Benitez, the Liverpool manager, can breathe a sigh of relief, after his captain escaped punishment for hitting Portsmouth midfielder.

Rafa Benitez, the Liverpool manager, can breathe a sigh of relief, after his captain, Steven Gerrard, escaped punishment from the English Football Association for an incident during the 4-1 win against Portsmouth on Monday. Gerrard caught Michael Brown, the Portsmouth midfielder, with a forearm while the pair were chasing the ball. The referee, Stuart Atwell, spoke to Gerrard at the time and, because he had seen the incident, the FA will take no further action.

It will be a relief for Liverpool, who face the French side Lille tomorrow at Anfield in the Europa League before an away game against bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday in the Premier League. Alberto Aquilani scored one of Liverpool's goals on Monday. The Italian's signing has been questioned all season as he has struggled with injuries and to adapt to the Premier League. But he finally gave a glimpse of the ability that persuaded Benitez to pay £20 million (Dh110m) and predict the midfielder would be a major asset for the future.

"It has been a difficult season for me because I have had a lot of injuries, but now I feel fit and am right to play," said Aquilani. "I had a chance against Portsmouth and I had to take it. Can I do better? Everyone can do better, but Fernando [Torres] is a great player and it is easy to play with him and Stevie [Gerrard]." For Portsmouth, relegation will be certain once the Premier League docks them nine points today for going into administration.

That will be ratified after confirmation that HM Revenue and Customs have dropped their challenge that the administration was valid. Portsmouth, who owe £65m, will not now face a winding up petition, but the points deduction would leave them 17 points away from safety with 27 to play for. akhan@thenational.ae