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Gerrard Singles Out Sterling For Praise Against "Long-Ball" Everton

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In contrast to accusations Everton were little more than long-ball merchants on Sunday, Steven Gerrard had plenty of praise for his Liverpool teammates for trying to play football in the face of such opposition, singling out Raheem Sterling in particular.

Chris Brunskill

Following Sunday's draw, Steven Gerrard had a healthy supply of ire to aim at the officials who cost Liverpool a win and Everton captain Phil Neville, who dove theatrically following a week where his manager had suggested diving was driving fans away from the sport and painting Liverpool's Luis Suarez as one of the worst culprits. When it came to criticism of Everton, though, Gerrard didn't stop with Neville.

Much has been made this season of Everton's attempt to move away from the physical, direct approach that has marked their game under David Moyes, with a belief that the manager now has a side capable of playing a little bit of fluid, passing football on occasion—a side capable of not only challenging Liverpool in the table, but also when it comes to producing entertaining football. Gerrard, it's fair to say, doesn't agree with that point of view.

"Everton are effective because they have some big physical lads in the team and are very direct," he said. "They are effective. But the only team who tried to play football was us. Everton are not better than us. Everton were very direct and were getting on the second balls, and so the plan in the second half was to go 3-5-2 and try to stop the long balls coming in.

"Once we stopped that we passed through Everton and looked very dangerous on the break. We had a young, small team and they were all men and stood together. We deserved the win."

And despite that many left the match feeling that Raheem Sterling had had one of the less effective performances in his young career, Gerrard felt that it was actually Sterling at the root of that second half resurgence after Brendan Rodgers switched to three at the back and moved the young winger inside to play just off of Luis Suarez.

"Sterling has been a revelation for us. To be 17 years of age away in a derby, in a cauldron of an atmosphere against a big, physical, long-ball team, I thought he was outstanding. I don't think the Everton players would have known too much about him before Sunday, but I think they are going to be seeing an awful lot of him in the future. He is going to be playing in many, many Merseyside derbies. He is going to have a major impact in them.

"He is going to be one of the top players in the league, there's no doubt about it. The way he stands up for himself, wants the ball and doesn't hide. It's a credit to himself. He has some bottle. That's what you look for in young lads. You wonder whether they have the bottle to play away against tough teams in tough situations and he handled it superbly."

No matter one's view of Sterling's day on the whole, he'll certainly need some bottle after a second half miss saw an audacious chipped effort fall closer to the corner flag than the goal while Suarez screamed for the goal unmarked in the middle of the penalty area. Still, everything the youngster has shown so far suggests he's fully capable of quickly putting that poor decision behind him and carrying on as before—though hopefully not without learning a little from it.

Something along the lines of As good you already are and even if your captain is talking you up as something of the next Lionel Messi, you might be better off passing it to an open teammate than attempting to imitate him next time around would be a good start.