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Steven Gerrard comes to Liverpool's rescue

Steven Gerrard comes to Liverpool's rescue

As usual when Liverpool are in trouble, Steven Gerrard and Pepe Reina ride to the rescue. They have both done it in an FA Cup final, and they did it last night to prevent defeat in Liverpool's final warm-up game before more weighty matters in the Premiership and Champions League take centre stage.

Liverpool were heading for their first pre-season reverse, aside from a penalty shoot-out against Portsmouth in Hong Kong, when Gerrard pounced midway through the second half in the concluding game of the four-team Port of Rotterdam Tournament to score the equaliser. Then, with time ticking away, Reina moved to his right to turn away Luigi Bruins' penalty.

Liverpool were watched by representatives of Toulouse, their opponents in the Champions League next week. The French club lost their opening league match of the season on Saturday, 3-1 away to Valenciennes.

As usual, Benitez was giving nothing away: the master tinkerman changed the whole starting XI from the one who played against Shanghai Shenhua on Friday, though that was no surprise in itself. The surprise was some of the names on the bench, considering it was the manager's last chance for honing before the season kicks off at Aston Villa on Saturday.

Feyenoord's failure to qualify for Europe this season meant that last night's game - and a 1-1 draw against Chelsea 11 days ago - was as good as it was going to get for them outside the domestic league. Their fans appreciated another sight of Dirk Kuyt, who left for Liverpool with 71 goals in 101 matches to his credit; he almost scored at de Kuip again but his rising shot from the edge of the area bounced down from the underside of the bar.

With so many centre forwards at the manager's disposal - six on his own count - the pairing of Kuyt with the pony-tailed Andrei Voronin looked as though it would stand him in good stead when he starts ringing the changes in earnest. Though similar in style they have the experience and intelligence to move in different directions to each other.

However, it was Feyenoord, so insipid for much of the first half, who took the lead right on half-time. Andwele Slory controlled Giovanni van Bronckhorst's pass in his stride, taking him away and clear of John Arne Riise, cutting inside and hitting Reina's left-hand post, Royston Drenthe dispatching the loose ball into the empty net.

The arrival of Drenthe's Dutch under-21 team-mate, Ryan Babel, recently recruited by Liverpool from Feyenoord's arch-rivals Ajax, received a cacophony of derision in contrast to the response he was accorded by adoring fans in the Amsterdam Arena the night before.

Liverpool almost fashioned an equaliser when Jermaine Pennant pulled a corner back to the edge of the area, where Xabi Alonso hit it first time, and Sherif Ekramy dived to his left to turn it aside.

Soon afterwards, Benitez introduced Fernando Torres - who marked his first start with his first goal on Friday - into a three-striker front line, Torres playing wide on the right.

Gerrard had been comparatively anonymous for most of the three-quarters of the match that had elapsed before he went on a bulwarking run through the left side, past two challenges, the second one by Lucius so tame he found the ball at his feet again. From there it was a simple case of rolling the ball between goalkeeper and near post.

Four minutes from time, though, Feyenoord should have won it when Drenthe's cross was handled by Alvaro Arbeloa. Substitute Bruins stepped up to take it, but put it too close to Reina, who pushed it away going to his right.


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