Steven Gerrard endured a disappointing final home match for Liverpool as Crystal Palace ruined his emotionally charged Anfield farewell with a 3-1 win in the Premier League.
Liverpool -1 3 Crystal Palace
Gerrard played all 90 minutes in his 709th appearance for Liverpool but couldn’t conjure up one last moment of brilliance at a stadium he has illuminated so many times in his 17-year Liverpool career.
Instead, the 34-year-old former England captain produced a low-key display in a result that ended Liverpool’s slim hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. Manchester United have qualified instead.
Gerrard, one of Liverpool’s greatest players, will leave Liverpool after next weekend’s match at Stoke – on the final weekend of the league season – to join Los Angeles Galaxy.
The final minute of the match was played to a soundtrack of “Steven Gerrard is red” sung by the Kop. Liverpool fans serenaded their captain of the past 12 years with songs throughout a frustrating match for both Gerrard and the team.
Liverpool took the lead through Adam Lallana in the 26th minute before conceding to Jason Puncheon’s free kick in the 43rd. Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray scored for Palace in the second half. Gerrard had two shots – one that was well saved and another way off target that drew mock derision from the Kop. Gerrard saluted the fans with a thumbs-up.
The game was more a celebration of an icon, a chance to say goodbye, than a football match. Liverpool went into the match with virtually no chance of finishing in the top four, and Palace were safe from relegation, so the whole evening could be dedicated to honouring the club’s best player in a generation.
Gerrard’s name was the last to be read out – to huge cheers – when the teams were announced. Accompanied by his three daughters, Gerrard touched the “This is Anfield” sign one last time in the tunnel and walked out to the guard of honour, high-fiving each Palace player.
He clapped and waved to all four stands inside Anfield, two of which had mosaics held out by fans that spelled “CAPTAIN” and “S8G.” As the club’s anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, rang out, Gerrard laughed and played with his daughters.
By this time, Gerrard was trending on Twitter, which was awash with tributes throughout the game.
He couldn’t provide a final “Gerrard moment” at Anfield in the 354th and last home match, but fans here have been spoiled with his moments of brilliance since he made his debut in 1998. He will have one more opportunity to add to his goal tally of 185 for Liverpool.
Gerrard’s departure will leave a huge void in the Liverpool team. He has been captain since 2003. He has been Liverpool’s symbol for the past decade, the player the team has turned to in times of need, and has set the standard in matches.
He departs with ten trophies for Liverpool – and a stack of memories.
“It felt very strange,” he said of his Anfield farewell. “As I say I have been dreading this moment and the reason being because I will miss it so much. I’ve loved every minute of it and I’m absolutely devastated I’ll never play in front of these fantastic supporters again.
“First and foremost I’d like to thank everyone at the club who has helped me in the last 17 years. I’d like to thank all my team-mates today, all the ex-players who I have played with over the years – they have made me the player I am.
“I’ll save my last thank you for these supporters – they stand out.
“Just before I go, before the tears come, I’ve played in front of most supporters around the world but let me tell you, you’re the best.”
Liverpool, of course, will find it almost impossible to replace Gerrard. But it is a mark of the man that he has never lost his humility or forgotten where he came from. He was not even last to leave the pitch, quietly slipping down the tunnel after posing for photographs with team-mates, friends and family.
“The first time you play for LFC is a dream come true and everything else after that was a bonus,” he added.
Scorers: Liverpool - Lallana 26; Crystal Palace - Puncheon 43; Zaha 60; Murray 90