Gerrard stuns Napoli with late treble
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Liverpool FC 3-1 SSC Napoli
Steven Gerrard stepped off the bench to fire a second-half hat-trick as Liverpool moved them three points clear at the Group K summit.
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Skipper Steven Gerrard came to Liverpool FC's rescue as he stepped off the bench to fire a second-half hat-trick and earn Roy Hodgson's team a win that moved them three points clear at the Group K summit.
SSC Napoli had hopes of a famous victory on their first visit to England when Ezequiel Lavezzi fired them into a 28th-minute lead. They were still leading with 15 minutes remaining only for Gerrard to turn the game – and the group – on its head.
It was a weak back pass by Anfield old boy Andrea Dossena that let in half-time substitute Gerrard for his 76th-minute equaliser. Dossena's ball from inside his own area was a fraction short, inviting Gerrard to slide in and challenge. Although Napoli keeper Morgan De Sanctis got there first, the ball came back off Gerrard and went into the net.
When Glen Johnson went down under Salvatore Aronica's challenge two minutes from time, Gerrard then stepped up and put Liverpool ahead from the penalty spot before completing his hat-trick 60 seconds later when Lucas beat Dossena and sent Gerrard clear to dink over De Sanctis.
It was a far cry from a first half controlled by Napoli, with Lavezzi a particular threat. Having twice teed up a wasteful Edinson Cavani, the Argentinian striker himself drove wide after a misplaced pass from Jonjo Shelvey before similar generosity from the hosts led to the opening goal. When Christian Poulsen miscued a header, sending the ball back into his own half, Cavani's flick sent Lavezzi clear to finish low under Pepe Reina.
Liverpool almost replied soon after as David Ngog poked just past the far post. Hodgson took action at half-time, sending on Gerrard for Milan Jovanović, and Liverpool were soon on top. Shelvey and Raúl Meireles fashioned a good chance for Ngog but De Sanctis saved with his legs. Meireles shaved a post, but once again it was Gerrard who saved his side as Napoli slipped to third in Group K.