x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Gerrard still the difference

A goal by the Liverpool captain saw the Reds beat Olympique Marseille 1-0 to progress in the Champions League.

Steven Gerrard puts in a sliding tackle on Marseille's Ronald Zubar during Liverpool's 1-0 Champions League victory on Wednesday.
Steven Gerrard puts in a sliding tackle on Marseille's Ronald Zubar during Liverpool's 1-0 Champions League victory on Wednesday.

LiVERPOOL // Rafa Benitez may be the one breaking records for Liverpool, but Steven Gerrard again highlighted just how crucial he is to his manager's hopes of success. The midfielder returned from a groin injury to head home the winner against Marseille that clinched a place in the knockout stage for the Reds. It gave Benitez his 39th European victory, equalling the record of the three-time European Cup winner Bob Paisley. Wednesday's game was his 66th in charge, surpassing the record of another legend, Bill Shankly. Proud landmarks for the Spaniard, but if he is to add more trophies to his name, he will need his side to step up another gear and show they do not have to rely on Gerrard to claim victories. Benitez admits his side had a "scary" encounter with Marseille, who constantly troubled the Liverpool defence, and they may not be so fortunate against a team with a sharper attack in the latter stages. Gerrard was the scourge of the misfiring French outfit yet again with his fourth goal - 30th overall in Europe - against them and earning more plaudits from his manager. But while Pepe Reina acknowledges Gerrard's undoubted influence, he says Liverpool should not be seen as a one-man band either. Fernando Torres is someone who can emphasise that fact. The Spanish striker has yet to find his best form after returning from a hamstring injury and has not scored at Anfield this season. But Reina, his teammate for club and country, said: "Fernando is still the same; a brilliant, top-class player for us. He will score soon. "Fernando has had a bad injury and still recovering. Just give him a bit of time and he will come to his best again. Stevie is a great player and it is more probable we will win when he's on the pitch. But we are Liverpool. "If we are dependent only on Stevie, there will be something wrong. He's an important player, an example for everyone in the dressing room, training pitch and games, but there are 10 other players who are killing themselves to help him or as good as him. "It is important for him to keep scoring and being important for the team, but we still have other good players. We are winning, but without playing brilliantly. A sign of a good team? Of course. Let's see if we can improve and keep winning." Gerrard was also praised for his professionalism after missiles were thrown at him from the Marseille end as he was about to take a corner. Uefa are investigating the incident and Benitez said: "Maybe the Uefa delegate will notice what happened. Steven did well not to react." Marseille must now beat Atletico Madrid in their final game to have a chance of gaining a place in the Uefa Cup and the coach, Erik Gerets, said: "The Champions League is over now for us, but the youngsters have learned from this group. We were never scared, we tried to take on Liverpool, but we lacked that certain something extra that is the difference between the top and the rest." akhan@thenational.ae