Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Reds triumph in Gerrard testimonial

Around £1million was expected to be raised for the Steven Gerrard Foundation from the midfielder's testimonial

For a man who delivers at the most opportune moments Steven Gerrard left the goalscoring in his testimonial to fellow midfielders Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson as Liverpool beat Olympiacos 2-0.

With a sell-out Anfield gathered to honour their inspirational captain it was a duo who will have a greater part to play in the club's future - rather than the man who has created so much of its history - who made the impact.

While the Greeks did not exactly come bearing gifts they acquiesced in ensuring Gerrard's big day ended on the right note.

There were no Champions League heroics from the England midfielder like the last time Olympiacos visited Anfield on that famous night in December 2004 which ultimately culminated in a fifth European Cup.

Gerrard has a proven record of producing when it matters and although this was a big occasion for the 33-year-old it was still only a friendly.

And while the biggest cheers of the day were rightly reserved for the Liverpool skipper his first-half performance was overshadowed by that of Allen and Iago Aspas.

Even Luis Suarez, who still appears to be angling for a move away after two failed bids by Arsenal, showed enough in a cameo substitute appearance to lift the mood.

Wales international Allen should have had a hat-trick before the interval but managed to convert just one of his chances - all from inside 10 yards.

That was from Aspas' low cross from the left-hand side of the penalty area, sliding in to divert the ball home from five yards midway through the half.

Just a minute earlier he had volleyed over from close range after Daniel Agger had headed Gerrard's corner into his path while his worst miss came much earlier when he volleyed over from eight yards from a flamboyant Aspas backheel.

The Spaniard, a £7million summer signing from Celta Vigo, was lively in his first outing at Anfield which should have begun with a goal after just five minutes when Allen intercepted a pass from Andreas Samaris to release the forward, who shot too close to goalkeeper Balazs Megveri.

Aspas also had a close-range volley diverted wide by the goalkeeper's legs.

Gerrard had largely a watching brief - always involved but not particularly threatening - although one trademark run was picked out by Philippe Coutinho's brilliant through-ball only for the England midfielder's touch to allow Megveri to nip in to collect.

After the break another sensational Coutinho pass put Raheem Sterling through but his lob beat both substitute keeper Roberto and the far post.

Suarez was sent on to a rousing reception along with the recently-retired Jamie Carragher and Henderson, the latter scoring within seconds with his first touch from Sterling's pass.

Former Reds striker Robbie Fowler was given an emotional welcome from the Anfield crowd six years after his last appearance and almost rewarded them with a late goal.

Only a Gerrard thunderbolt in front of the Kop like the one nearly nine years ago would have eclipsed that but there was to be no fairytale ending as he departed to a standing ovation with six minutes to go.

A fourth successive pre-season friendly victory and clean sheet was racked up but for once statistics - apart from the £1million likely to be raised for the Steven Gerrard Foundation - were not important.

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