Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson had to rein in the superlatives about Steven Gerrard after his captain's hat-trick secured a 3-1 victory over Napoli in Group K of the Europa League.
Trailing to Ezequiel Lavezzi's 28th-minute goal, Gerrard came off the bench for the start of the second half and proceeded to dominate the game. His three goals came in the final 15 minutes, beating goalkeeper Morgan de Sanctis to a 50-50 for his first, firing home an 88th-minute penalty after Glen Johnson was fouled and then executing a clever dink over De Sanctis seconds later.
"At half-time I thought our best chance of winning the game was to bring him on," Hodgson said. "Steven likes to play, him and players like Jamie Carragher and Jose Reina don't themselves seek rest periods. They understand what I am trying to do so there is never any problem if I want to put them on. They are the first to put their hands up to say, 'If you need me, I'm there'."
He added: "I think he has been good in the games he has played for me. I've got to say I have been more than happy with everything he has done during my time at the club."
Asked if Gerrard was the best catalyst player in England, the Reds boss added: "It would be easy for me to say yes because he is a player in a team I am coaching.
"But I've never really appreciated managers coming out and saying my good one is better than your good one.
"I think he is a wonderful player and I have always thought he was a wonderful player and he does a fantastic job for us.
"We owe a big debt of gratitude to him. I thought it was a real leader's performance.
"The first goal was not a pretty goal.
"That was a captain's goal, the goal of a guy who wanted to get his team back in the game even at the risk of injury. That is certainly appreciated by me and my staff."
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