Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard made a brilliant Major League Soccer debut for Los Angeles Galaxy, scoring a goal and having a hand in two others as the Galaxy beat the San Jose Earthquakes 5-2 on Friday.
Gerrard, who had played 45 minutes of a friendly for the Galaxy last weekened and appeared as a substitute in a mid-week cup match, helped trigger a remarkable fightback after San Jose raced into an early 2-0 lead.
Gerrard's former Liverpool team-mate Robbie Keane was the star, scoring a hat-trick as the Galaxy romped home. But Gerrard left the pitch to a standing ovation after transforming the course of a match that San Jose looked set to win.
The midfielder won the penalty which Keane converted to make it 2-1 and then fired home a 37th-minute equaliser to make it 2-2.
Gerrard, watched by former England and Los Angeles star David Beckham in the stands, then provided the free-kick which Keane steered home to make it 3-2 on 64 minutes. Gerrard also nearly claimed a second in the 70th minute, his free kick crashing back off the woodwork.
Keane and Gerrard combined again in the build-up which led to the second penalty 10 minutes from time, duly stroked home by Ireland striker Keane for 4-2. Sebastian Lletget then grabbed a late fifth for the Galaxy.
The 35-year-old Gerrard joined the Galaxy earlier this year on an 18-month deal after spending his entire 17-year professional career with Liverpool.
Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena substituted Gerrard in the 88th minute and the newest Galaxy hero left the field to a standing ovation from the adoring crowd of 27,000 at the StubHub Center.
"I'm really pleased," Gerrard told a post-match press conference. "I'm starting to feel a little bit sharper. I'm very close to full fitness.
"Performance wise you guys are the experts but I'm pleased how it went and I'm happy with the win."
Gerrard admitted he was relieved to open his goal-scoring account after missing two chances in his earlier appearances. "I was quite disappointed in the previous two games not to get goals, I had two good chances," Gerrard said.
"But I have belief in myself if I keep getting in the right positions I know the goals will come. I was very pleased to get off the mark and even more pleased for Robbie to get another hat-trick.
I'm pretty pleased with my contribution tonight."
Gerrard said he was reveling in the resumption of his partnership with former Liverpool team-mate Keane. "We had that chemistry at Liverpool," Gerrard said. "When you're playing with good players its easy to connect.
"I know where he's going to be. Robbie's on the same wavelength, he's a very intelligent player."
The former England captain also revealed he had ignored calls from Arena on the sideline about whether he needed to be substituted. "Bruce was shouting 'How are you doing?' and I kept looking away pretending not to hear him," Gerrard said.
"I felt like a kid again out there. I just want to play as many minutes as possible."
Earlier, Quincy Amarikwa scored both goals for San Jose off some sloppy defence by the Galaxy to start the game. Amarikwa scored off a counter attack in the 22nd minute and then again when he was unmarked near the goal to grab his second in the 25th minute.