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Oct 31, 2012

Gerrard backtracks on Everton comments

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has performed a U-turn on his claims that Everton are a "very direct" team who are "similar to Stoke" and apologised to both clubs.

• Blog: Stats prove Gerrard wrong

Gerrard caused outrage on one half of Merseyside, as well as at Stoke City, on Tuesday after essentially calling Everton a team which hoofs the ball forward, rather than playing football. He made the remarks following Sunday's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, which finished 2-2 with a Luis Suarez 'winner' deep into stoppage time disallowed due to an incorrect offside flag.

Despite Gerrard's comments, match stats showed that Liverpool played more long balls in the match - 16.6% compared to 13.8% by the Toffees - and completed 261 passes (71.7%) to Everton's 361 (74.7%). Everton had 56% of possession, and 16 shots on goal compared to Liverpool's 13.

"Just to clarify I've watched the game again, and I've seen some of Everton's matches this season, and what I said in relation to their style of play went too far,'' he told the Liverpool Echo. "I was frustrated by the disallowed goal from Luis when I spoke and also some of the things (diving allegations) that have been said about Luis in recent weeks which haven't been fair in my opinion.

"As captain I have a duty to stand up for our players when I feel they are unfairly singled out. But it wasn't my intention to disrespect Everton or Stoke for that matter and I certainly didn't intend any disrespect to their manager or players.

"I have the utmost respect for David Moyes and Tony Pulis and the job they have done at their respective clubs. My main issue was with the goal that wasn't given and that Liverpool did not get the three points I felt we deserved in what was a fantastic derby match.''

Gerrard had said about the Toffees: "There was only one team who came into the derby trying to play football. Everton are effective because they have some big physical lads in the team and are very direct, but the only team who tried to play football was us. I thought we stood up to a team that are very similar to Stoke."

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers also tried to play down Gerrard's remarks: "If you look at Everton and a number of other teams, they are a bit more direct and then play off the front players. But they have players with finesse like Leighton Baines and Leon Osman, who are terrific footballers. For us here at Liverpool, there's a way in which we play and want to win games. The supporters and the history of the club dictates that."

Everton centre-back Phil Jagielka had responded to Gerrard's accusations, telling the Guardian: "If Stevie says we are a long ball team then I'm not going to deny the fact that we play long balls. Do we play them for the full 90 minutes? No. But we play quite direct.

"Who wouldn't when you have someone in form like Marouane Fellaini, who can bring the ball down for fun and we start creating things from there? Why wouldn't you do that? We don't believe in passing it around for half an hour for the sake of it.

"If we can put the ball forward and cause them trouble then let's cause them as much trouble as possible. We won't change the way we play. We won't start to look to put in a thousand passes a game. If we need to play forward to Felli to create chances, or to Nikica Jelavic or to Victor Anichebe, then guess what? That's what we'll do.

"I suppose it's a backhanded compliment. Stevie must have thought Liverpool were in a game to come out which such comments. It makes you chuckle, but if Stevie is saying things like that, there must be a reason behind it which must be that we are doing something well."

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