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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 01:10 GMT
Gerrard 'back to his best'
Gerrard makes the score 3-1
Gerrard rifled in Liverpool's third goal
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier singled out Steven Gerrard for praise after his side scored an injury-time win over Aston Villa in the Worthington Cup.

Houllier had publicly criticised Gerrard after Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League, but the midfielder set up two goals and scored one himself in the 4-3 win.

Houllier said: "He was back to his best and was fantastic throughout this game.

"He is capable of putting in that kind of performance nine times out of 10."

Houllier also praised the commitment and character of his side, who have picked up just one point from their last six Premiership games.

Liverpool went a goal down midway through the first half, and then had to respond to being pegged back from 3-1 to 3-3.

Houllier said: "At the start we were short of confidence but once we got going we played the better football.

"We went 3-1 up and all credit to Villa for coming back to level things.

"But if we were short of confidence we were never short of character and showed a great attitude and spirit to win the game.

I cannot fault the efforts of my players

Graham Taylor

"Even at 3-3 we kept going and I'm very proud of my players."

Villa manager Graham Taylor now has to pick his side up for the battle to move out of the lower regions of the Premiership.

He said: "Football can be a cruel game and it has been very cruel to us today.

"On the morning of the game we lose Steve Staunton with an ankle problem and then in the warm-up Ronny Johnsen suffers a hamstring injury.

"But I cannot fault the efforts of my players. It was great credit to them that they came back to 3-3 after being 3-1 down.

"At that stage we looked like the side who might win it but it went the other way."


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