PRESTON, England (AFP) - Steven Gerrard was labelled a "model professional" by Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee after capping a troubled week off the pitch by inspiring the Reds to a 2-0 FA Cup win over Preston.
The Liverpool captain, charged by police with assault and affray over an alleged incident in nearby Southport following the Premier League leaders win against Newcastle last Sunday, led from the front as goals from Spanish duo Albert Riera and Fernando Torres sealed victory at Deepdale.
Gerrard's driving display and unselfish creation of Torres's injury-time goal here Saturday were the hallmarks of the kind of effort Reds' fans have come to expect from the Liverpool-born, 28-year-old, England midfielder.
"Steven is a top professional and he produced a terrific performance out there," said former Liverpool and England midfielder Lee. "He is a model professional and he certainly has our full support.
"This football club is not about individuals, but his pass at the end (to Torres) epitomised the team spirit we have in the team. He has been a great servant for this club and he is a terrific guy."
Liverpool were always in control against Preston, but a series of misses by Robbie Keane ensured a nervous finish to the game before Torres ended any hopes Preston may have had of forcing a replay against their fellow north-west club.
Lee insisted, however, that there are no concerns over former Tottenham striker Keane's failure to perform consistently in front of goal.
"We know what Robbie Keane can do, so there are no problems for us," Lee said. "If he keeps on getting in good positions, then we will keep on creating chances for him.
"Preston made it really difficult for us, though, rather than us making it difficult for ourselves. We knew they would be a very well-organised and determined side and that's how it proved."
Liverpool's third round win, the stage where teams from England's top two divisions enter the FA Cup, was marred by Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso limping off with a foot injury at half-time.
"Xabi has had seven stitches in his instep and he is very sore, but we won't know for 24-48 hours the full extent of the injury," Lee added.
Championship club Preston had the ball in the net midway through the second-half when Sean St Ledger headed in Richard Chaplow's cross, but referee Martin Atkinson disallowed the 'goal' after Jon Parkin fouled Jamie Carragher.
It was a needless challenge by the striker and second-tier Preston's manager Alan Irvine said: "I haven't spoken to Jon yet, but I will have a chat with him about it because it was an unnecessary foul.
"Maybe he was just trying to wrestle himself off the ground, but the linesman spotted it and I knew the goal would not stand as soon as it went in.
"Liverpool are a great side, however, and my players will have learned an awful lot from playing against them."
|S. St. Ledger|
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