Papers compare Rafa to Paisley

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Steven Gerrard’s first half header sent Liverpool through to the second round of the Champions League at Anfield last night, despite an uninspiring performance where Marseille dominated periods of the game. Nevertheless, the sign of a successful team is one that wins when they’re not playing well ‘“ something Liverpool haven’t shown too much until this season. This morning we take a look at the morning newspapers reactions to last night’s European action.

Jason Burt of The Independent writes a very well-written and well-researched piece on comparing Rafael Benitez’s European record to great Liverpool managers of the past, Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.

Records tumbled before Rafa last night. A 66th European match in charge to surpass Bill Shankly’s Liverpool landmark and, more importantly for Rafael Benitez, a 39th victory to equal the standard set by Bob Paisley. That is some company to keep.

Burt goes on to praise the effort, determination and service to Liverpool Football Club of skipper Steven Gerrard, who celebrates ten years since he made his debut for the club against Blackburn Rovers this week.

Gerrard’s importance, for all the lauding of Fernando Torres is almost immeasurable to team and psyche, especially during such unconvincing evenings. But then how often has Gerrard done that for Liverpool? And how often when those around him have failed to live up to expectations, as happened again yesterday? And to think Gerrard only played after recovering from the groin injury that ruled him out of England’s friendly in Berlin last week and the weekend’s soulless, goalless draw at home to Fulham.

John Edwards of the Daily Mail shares Burt’s opinion of what an impressive record Benitez has made during his first four and a half years as Liverpool manager.

Eclipsing anything by Bill Shankly takes some doing and Benitez had every right to beam with pride at leading Liverpool out for a 66th time in Europe, beating the old mark of 65.

There’s more praise for Gerrard from The Times’ Oliver Kay, but perhaps worry that Liverpool are far too dependent on his presence in the heart of the team.

They have never been quite the one-man team that has been suggested in recent years, but at times this season it has been Gerrard alone who has enabled them to rise above mediocrity in group D.

The Reds now have to wait until Monday night to take on West Ham at home in the Premier League. Kick-off is 8pm.

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