Fears that Steven Gerrard's return to the Liverpool fold could suddenly turn sour, like on two occasions already this season, became very real after 45 minutes of Tuesday's Merseyside derby.
After putting the Reds ahead with a rare strike of precision and grace, Gerrard limped heavily from the field as his chances of reappearing for the second half began to dwindle. Anyone whose laid eyes on Gerrard since his return from groin surgery in September will have noticed his inability to get up to full speed.
His inch perfect passing and remarkable vision still exists, but his unerring energy and drive in midfield are attributes of the past. Instead, qualities that were perhaps masked during his hay day at Anfield came to the fore on the grandest of stages.
Gerrard showed the initiative to hang back on the edge of the penalty area instead of taking up a more threatening position for the first goal, arrived on cue for the second as opposed to being the main protagonist in the attack, while the third saw the 31-year-old refuse to commit Everton's Sylvain Distin, and instead finish off the move with Luis Suarez like an archetypical goal poacher.
Perhaps the overriding feeling to come from his evening's work was not how injuries appear to have taken their tole on Gerrard, but more that despite a limitation of his capabilities, he's still able to make a match-winning contribution.
The England international has seemingly adapted to the requirements of his team. Suarez has now taken on the mantel of being the team's main ball carrier, a role Gerrard filled with aplomb prior to his injury nightmare.
Bar the three points that gives Liverpool hope of qualifying for the Champions League, the overwhelming positive was how Gerrard and Suarez, who started alongside the improving Andy Carroll for the first time in the Premier League, combined to such devastating effect with ominous regularity for the club's upcoming opponents.
While criticism has flooded in over how the club's dubious transfer dealings has dictated their season thus far, without Gerrard and Suarez in the same team, judging the current standing of this Liverpool side is hazardous. As David Moyes will vouch, they're barely recognisable.
Having now reinvented himself, but with his influence retained, Gerrard proves a much needed focal point in a Liverpool midfield that has often been swamped this season. Now it's their top four prospects that require saving.
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