Gerrard: Play for the shirt

Reds captain Steven Gerrard has refused to go along with his manager’s view of the Liverpool performance last night. Liverpool were knocked out of the Carling Cup by Crystal Palace just three days after being beaten in the league by Fulham. Liverpool are going to have their work cut out to reach the top four in the league, and are out of the Carling Cup. They’ve still got a couple of months to go before the FA Cup kicks off for them, but after being knocked straight out last season by Burnley the Reds domestic performances are still leaving a lot to be desired.

Outside of the domestic front Liverpool of course are European Champions and holders of the Super Cup, and are set to travel to Japan for the World Cup for clubs in December. Is Liverpool’s problem trying to convince a largely overseas-based squad just how important the domestic competitions are?

After Saturday’s defeat Rafa roasted his players, called them in for extra training and questioned their attitude and work-rate. Last night he was kinder to his players, saying: "You can’t accuse the players of not working this evening. I cannot fault them for that. I won’t criticise my players if they work hard but we have made some mistakes in defence and that is the reason that we lost. I was disappointed that we did not take the opportunities we had." Liverpool did indeed look good for a victory at stages last night – Palace went ahead against the run of play, but in the second half Palace had the upper hand. Benitez played two-up-front as so many have been demanding, and with it being the least important competition they are involved in this season he included some younger names. The inclusion of recently injured players added to Liverpool’s difficulties too.

However these kinds of excuses don’t wash with the skipper. It was his first game back for the Reds after being injured on England duty, and he scored his fiftieth goal. Celebrations were short-lived for Stevie though, and he thinks that some of his team-mates let themselves, the club and the supporters down. Speaking today to the Liverpool Echo, Stevie says: "That kind of performance is just not acceptable for Liverpool Football Club. A lot of our fans have paid a lot of money to see that and what they saw just wasn’t good enough. We’ve got to say sorry to them for that. People can go on about the first half chances all they like, but that’s not enough for us. We’ve got to perform for 90 minutes."

It’s no secret that one mistake in football can be enough to lose a game – so it’s important to stay alert throughout and to work as a team. Concentration is important, as is communication, and without those two assets all the skill in the world is not going to win you anything. More importantly though for Gerrard is the attitude of the players. As a boyhood Red Gerrard feels hurt when the Reds lose as both a player and a supporter. He wants to play with team-mates who want to win for the pride of Liverpool FC. Last night’s performance upset him, and he wants it to now be the kick up the backside these players have needed for some time: "There’s got to be a big reaction to this now. We’ve all got to play for the shirt and start showing how much it means to be playing for this club."

As for Rafa, Gerrard says he’s not at fault – he’s done all he could to motivate the team and give them their orders: "I don’t see why anyone should have a go at the boss. He’s been saying the right things to us and doing the right things. It’s the players who have to accept responsibility in this situation. We have to take the blame."

Now it’s down to Liverpool’s stars to show that actions speak louder than words.