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Why Steven Gerrard's sending off vindicated a decision made seven seasons ago

Steven Gerrard and Mehmet Topal

Steven Gerrard received his second red card in the defeat two Manchester United, and two of his other three dismissals came against Everton. Old quotes from Rafa Benitez seem to resonate.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard may have openly admitted responsibility for their defeat against Manchester United after he was sent off within 38 seconds for a stamp on Ander Herrera, but in a roundabout way it vindicated one of the decisions one of his old managers made seven and a half years ago.

Gerrard was sent off for just the fifth time in his Liverpool career - his second red card against Manchester United. The other two came in the Merseyside derby against Everton - while the other was for two yellows against Aston Villa in 2001.

It was a lunchtime kick-off in 2007 at Goodison Park when Rafa Benitez decided to make a huge decision by bringing off the Liverpool skipper, in a game that means so much to a man from the area. He was replaced after he had won a penalty to bring Liverpool back on level terms, which resulted in Everton going down to 10 men. 

Gerrard was replaced by Lucas Leiva, and his contribution was telling as his strike forced the penalty that won the game that day for Liverpool.

Benitez was asked about that substitution after the game, and he replied, saying: "We needed to play with our brains and not with our heart. We needed to pass the ball better."

He elaborated on that when asked about it some years later in the Independent: "I had Lucas [Leiva] on the bench and I could explain to him what I wanted. I couldn't explain to the players on the pitch with the temperature at 180 degrees.

"I wanted less passion and more calm. Someone that could analyse the game and say 'we are not in a hurry. If you play 15 minutes with calm and you have possession you will have four or five chances."

Maybe it was something that Liverpool could have done against United. Gerrard started the game from the bench and when he was introduced into the action, it was clear he was called upon in order to arrest a situation in the middle of the park where Liverpool were getting tactically outdone. Brendan Rodgers wanted a similar role from his skipper like the one he showed at the Liberty Stadium.

Gerrard, however, got caught up with the crowd's desire for someone to leave their foot in and make their mark on the game.

Lucas Leiva was another option but has just returned from injury so it's probably of little surprise that he was not the man called upon by Rodgers.

But the situation surrounding Gerrard against United was an example of why Benitez was so ruthless in that particular Merseyside derby game, and it's also telling that four out of Gerrard's five red cards have come in games against either United or Everton - when there's a cauldron like atmosphere that takes on greater significance to the local players - one would imagine.

His sending off against Manchester United demonstrated one flaw in his make-up as a player, even with the wealth of experience he has.

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