Head and shoulders above the rest of the dross…

John W Henry, Linda Pizzuti and Damien Comolli were there, apparently scouts from Manchester United were there, me and my uncle were there too.  Our presence is about the only thing we have in common.  But we all saw a first class, 45 minute performance from Steven Gerrard.  The captain showed again last night that he is by far Liverpool’s best player, and last night he was the best player on display from both teams.  He replaced the ineffective Milan Jovanovic at half-time, and seemed to have a free role across the front of the attacking 3 in midfield.  Maybe he was changing positions with Jonjo Shelvey and Raul Miereles, or maybe he was just doing whatever he wanted to, but last night it worked.

3-1, time to celebrate...

Liverpool had been pretty poor in the first half as time and time again they had chances and couldn’t find the final ball.  Glen Johnson, Jovanovic, Shelvey, Meireles and N’Gog were all guilty of being unable to beat the first man with a cross when in a good position.  Christian Poulsen on the other hand was guilty of being a poor footballer, he gave away possession needlessly and this led to the Napoli goal and was unable to assert any real influence on the game.  His midfield partner Jay Spearing gave another quality performance, and would have been Liverpool’s best player if it weren’t for Gerrard’s heroics.  N’Gog and Meireles both missed good chances to score, blazing over, wide or at the keeper when a little composure was required.  Liverpool seemed unable to exploit any of the space Napoli left on either side of their 3-man defence, mainly due to a lack of pace throughout the team.  N’Gog is quick and a couple of times he came wide to receive the ball but then the others wee slow to get into the space he left in the centre.  I expected Shelvey to be quicker than he is, and, as yet, Meireles’ technical ability is not making up for his own lack of speed.  This surely has to be one of the first things addressed in the January transfer window.  Gerrard and  Fernando Torres (although he isn’t showing much of either at the moment) are the only players who have both pace and technical ability in Liverpool’s first team.  That’s why they are so valuable to LFC.

Napoli had some good moments and controlled a lot of the first half play, mostly through Ezequiel Lavezzi, he has been Napoli’s standout player in recent weeks, and it was no difference last night.  He showed great movement throughout and there were a few wonderful passes and a composed finish for the goal.  Napoli’s other two star players, Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik had a mixed night, Hamsik was largely disappointing as he was closely watched and hustled out of possession a few times by Spearing and Jamie Carragher.  Cavani had a few good moments, he tried to drop wide and deep on occasions to receive the ball and on at least one occasion found space on the left flank when Johnson had forgotten where he was supposed to be, and laid on the assist for Lavezzi’s goal.  Cavani’s finishing let him down though as he spurned a couple of good chances.

Among the crowd there were quite a few Napoli fans mixed in with the Liverpool supporters, there were & sat a few rows in front of us.  Apart from a bit of barracking after they enthusiastically celebrated Napoli’s opening goal there was no trouble.  It is unfortunate that rival fans cannot sit in the stands at football games.  After attending baseball games in the US where this happens all the time, it makes you wonder what it is about football, or life in Europe or South America, that makes us unable to sit near people who support another team.

Anyway, a good game all-in-all, and if Gerrard is coming close to the end of his career, he showed there is still life in the old dog yet last night.

Some photos from the game…

The Kop's message to the visitors
Napoli fans respond with a birthday wish for a hero
Hodgson's half-time idea to change the game; take them all off and bring on Gerrard.

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