The Liverpool captain displayed the age-old principles and philosophies of the club with an electric hat-trick in the Merseyside derby
Speaking of Liverpool's 2-1 defeat in their previous Premier League outing at Anfield, Steven Gerrard said: "Defeat in our last game here was very difficult to take. I don't think anyone could argue that we deserved something from the Arsenal match. Arsène Wenger and Robin van Persie said as much afterwards."
With Kenny Dalglish joining this hard-luck story chorus by stating before this 217th Merseyside derby that kit deals are as important as points, it appeared the old adage of first being first and second not worth mentioning was no longer the maxim at this garlanded club. But then Gerrard, who went on to score a hat-trick, stepped up after 34 minutes to finish off a free-flowing move by curling the opener beyond Tim Howard and the true "principles and philosophies" of winning the Anfield way Dalglish wrote of in his programme notes were again visible.
Equally as rejuvenating was the captain's second, minutes into the second half. Luis Suárez, a constant buzz in Everton's ear, pulled off to the right where Jordan Henderson found him. After making a patsy of Sylvain Distin, Suárez's dribble took the ball into Gerrard's path and his piledriver left Howard no chance.
After Liverpool followed that defeat to Arsenal and the 2-1 loss at Manchester United previously by losing 1-0 at Sunderland on Saturday, Dalglish sent out his team under the Anfield lights hoping to avoid a fourth consecutive league defeat. This had not happened to Liverpool for a decade, when Gérard Houllier was the manager.
For this challenge Dalglish selected his strongest XI, form and fitness permitting, with Andy Carroll partnering Suárez in attack and Gerrard anchoring midfield, where he shadowed Jack Rodwell when not probing forward. Seven minutes were all the captain required to suggest this might be his and the club's evening. Suárez pulled into some space down the left, as he did throughout, and when receiving possession played in Gerrard who, homing in on Howard's goal, forced an impressive save.
Dalglish the player may never be matched in the adoration stakes here no matter how long Liverpool exist, but the questions had started regarding his managerial abilities 21 years after ending his first go at the job. The single shot managed in that insipid defeat at Sunderland illustrated the uneven nature of the side in the first full season of Dalglish's second coming, after a display against Arsenal of which he said correctly: "Some of the football we played was fantastic, especially in the buildup to our goal. We passed it well and showed great movement to create as many opportunities as we did."
To be under pressure only three matches on from delivering Liverpool a first trophy in six years – the Carling Cup – indicated as serious a doubt regarding the style of this side's play as their results. Charlie Adam, dropped after a poor outing at Sunderland, Henderson, Suárez and Stewart Downing, have all been bought by Dalglish to conjure up the magic expected by the Kop. But the creation void can still exist.
Downing, described puzzlingly by his manager earlier this year as "better than I thought", made two surging runs during the opening exchanges, with one of these ending in a cross to Carroll, whose header fell easily to Howard. But it was Suárez, the most successful of the recruits, who offered the consistent threat: Gerrard's opener was as brisk as the pass-and-move of the Liverpool glory years of the late 1970s and 1980s, in which Dalglish was a prime mover, and the Uruguayan is the credible successor.
Suárez swapped passes with Henderson and the forward swept the ball into Martin Kelly who blazed at Howard. When the goalkeeper blocked Distin's clearance it came to Gerrard, whose finish was met with a surge of Anfield electricity and Dalglish turning to acclaim the crowd behind him. Kelly might have had Liverpool's second moments later but his shot was steered wide of Howard's right post, and Henderson later played a slick ball into Suárez that was snuffed out by an excellent Distin intervention.
After Gerrard's second Suárez was at it again on 52 minutes. Floating into space on the right, the No7 skipped into the area and laid the ball to Carroll, whose effort came close to capping the perfect evening, which Gerrard did by claiming his third in added time.
On the Liverpool style Dalglish had also written: "I would rather play as we did against Arsenal, with the principles and philosophies we've been applying, than play ugly – but sometimes you have to do the ugly things which help you get the result." Liverpool got what they always demand here: the performance and points. And, there was no fourth defeat on the bounce.