Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 13:19 UK

Celebration that ended in bar brawl

By Ruth Clegg
BBC News

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard was joined by Kenny Dalglish after the match

After scoring two goals to take Liverpool closer to a possible Premier League title, captain Steven Gerrard was on top form.

But only a few hours later the England midfielder was locked in a cell with the threat of a five-year jail sentence hanging over him, following a fight in a bar.

A jury at Liverpool Crown Court agreed with the football star's assertion that he had acted in self-defence and cleared him of affray.

The jurors accepted Gerrard's claim that businessman Marcus McGee had been going to punch him first.

Judge Henry Globe said the midfielder would now walk away from the court with his "reputation intact".

After the match at Newcastle United last December, the Liverpool captain had joined friends, including Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish, in Southport to celebrate his team's 5-1 victory.

'In control'

Mr Dalglish said: "He was there with his lifelong friends enjoying himself at Christmas time.

"There had been no indication of anything - Steve and the lads were having a really good time and everyone was happy."

The party had moved from a pub in Formby - near the home Gerrard shares with wife Alex Curran and his two children - to a club in Southport and then on to the Lounge Inn.

It was here, as CCTV images showed and as the 29-year-old admitted to the jury, an argument about the music broke out and the Liverpool captain ended up punching Mr McGee.

The footage shows Gerrard turn from being happy and relaxed to hitting Mr McGee.

CCTV footage showed the fight at the bar

The brawl left Mr McGee with facial injuries. Five men later admitted affray.

The England midfielder admitted he had consumed several bottles of lager and a "jammie donut" shot.

But he said he was "certainly in control" and had acted in "self-defence", believing that Mr McGee was going to punch him first.

"I firmly believed that Marcus came forward to hit me," he told the court.

Following the fight, Gerrard and his friends left the bar and were arrested at 0230 BST in a nearby street.

The father-of-two, whose last brush with the law was when he was 19 after he was convicted of drink-driving, was arrested on suspicion of affray and had to spend 48 hours in a police cell.

Now, as he told an army of reporters, fans and friends outside Liverpool Crown Court, he can put the case behind him and concentrate on his football.

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