LIVERPOOL captain Steven Gerrard underlined his enduring brilliance with a hat-trick in last night's clinical Merseyside derby destruction of Everton.
Gerrard, making his 400th Premier League appearance, was at his inspirational best as the Reds crushed their rivals 3-0 at Anfield to end a run of three successive league defeats.
The 31-year-old's treble was the first by a Liverpool player against their neighbours since Ian Rush struck four at Goodison Park in 1982.
Yet despite Gerrard's undoubted and continuing importance to Liverpool, which stretches back more than a decade, he modestly claimed he did not deserve mention alongside the club's record goalscorer.
"I suppose it is special -- Ian Rush is a hero of mine, I looked to him for a long time and watched many, many videos of him," said Gerrard.
"But let's not be stupid. I am not comparing myself to Ian Rush.
"I think he scored 380-odd (actually 346) goals for the club. He's a different breed."
Manager Kenny Dalglish, who played alongside Rush, was short of words to describe Gerrard's brilliance.
Gerrard may have been controversially overlooked for the England captaincy last month but his influence in the corresponding role at Anfield is beyond doubt.
Dalglish said: "For a guy who left school at 15, my vocabulary is not that great. There is no way I could extol the virtues of Steven Gerrard and do him justice."
Gerrard, whose campaign has been restricted by injuries, put Liverpool ahead in the 34th minute when he clipped the ball over a crowd of players after Everton's American goalkeeper Tim Howard had saved from Martin Kelly.
He added a second after good work by Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez six minutes into the second half before combining with the same player to grab his third in injury time.
It was a deserved victory for a dominant home side and brought them back within two points of sixth-placed Newcastle.
Dalglish said: "It is a good reward for the players. It is great that they maintained the belief in themselves, the philosophies we have and the way they have been playing."
Everton's defeat left their manager David Moyes, celebrating the 10th anniversary of his appointment this week, still without a win at Anfield.
The Toffees mustered only three shots on target compared to the hosts' 10 but Moyes had made six changes for the match, with Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against Sunderland in mind.
"We have got a big week," said the Toffees' boss.
Moyes felt Everton paid the price for their own errors.
He said: "We gave away three terrible goals. We led to our own downfall, but after you give it away you still have to score and Liverpool did that."