Monday, 20 May 2013

Carra departs in perfect fashion

Jamie Carragher signed off in style, as he completed his 737th and final appearance for Liverpool on an emotional day at Anfield. After 16 and a half years of dedicated service to the Reds, Mr Liverpool pulled on that famous shirt for the last time. He received a rapturous reception from the Anfield faithful who, after years of dreaming of a team of Carraghers, are now left without the admired number 23 to support.

The characteristically humble Carra, who has always placed the team above himself, seemed almost embarrassed at the amount of attention he received prior to kick-off. He walked through a guard of honour with his children as the Kop performed a heartfelt rendition of the club's anthem, "You'll Never Walk Alone", and held up a mosaic in his honour. Ian Callaghan, the only player to appear more times for Liverpool, also presented him with a golden 23.
The Kop pays tribute to a retiring Liverpool legend
Carra was perhaps the keenest to get the game started, and when referee Martin Atkinson eventually blew the whistle to begin Carra's final match the hosts instantly had a gilt-edged chance to open the game in the perfect fashion. Henderson broke clear and set up Coutinho, whose header was blocked behind for a corner. From that set piece, the diminutive Brazilian headed goalwards at the back post and the ball appeared to cross the goal line before it was cleared but the officials failed to spot it and the deadlock remained unbroken.

As one Liverpool career ended, another began yesterday as Jordan Ibe was handed his senior debut by boss Brendan Rodgers. The 17-year old winger performed ably, contributing to the attack on regular occasions as well as tracking back and making a crucial challenge at one point in the second half to the delight of the Kop. 

Mid-way through the first period, Ibe was also involved in the creation of the opening goal. Impressive build-up play from the youngster on the left wing culminated in Coutinho arrowing an amazingly accurate 20-yard drive beyond Robert Green in the QPR goal and into the bottom left hand corner. 

Coutinho looks to the heavens while celebrating his goal with teammates
It was another sumptuous piece of skill from the former Inter Milan star, who Reds supporters cannot wait to see in action again next season.

Determined to add to his measly goal tally, Carragher was given freedom to roam forward and try and bag a goal to commemorate his final appearance for the Merseysiders. Soon after the opening goal, he cheekily attempted to emulate Diego Maradona's  'hand of God' goal. Johnson, Enrique, Sturridge and Coutinho also had efforts for the dominant home side, while the visitors' only real sight of goal throughout the whole match came when Loic Remy's smart left footed volley went wide of the post. 

On the hour mark, the moment the entire ground had been waiting for almost arrived. A loose ball in the centre of the pitch bounced enticingly for Carra, who struck the ball as sweetly as he has ever hit it, firing a volley goalwards from 30 yards out. The noise was phenomenal as the crowd, anticipating a goal to remember, attempted to suck the ball into the net. Agonisingly, the ball thumped against the upright and rebounded away to safety.

Carra claps the Kop as he's substituted
It was the type of strike you'd expect to see Steven Gerrard firing goalwards on his final appearance for Liverpool. It was stunning to see his Scouse teammate emulating the skipper and genuinely gutting that he was denied by the woodwork, although keeping a clean sheet provided Carra with as much satisfaction as a goal. 

During the final half hour, Borini and Suso made substitute appearances, with the latter particularly impressing  after being out of the first team for a substantial spell. Spanish left back Jose Enrique also smacked the ball goalwards in search of a second, forcing Green to beat the ball away. 

Five minutes from time, Jamie Carragher received a spine-tingling standing ovation from the entire ground as he was replaced by Sebastian Coates. The Kop knew that a Liverpool legend was leaving the action for the final time and that they would probably never see such an awesome player and person in a Red shirt ever again.

True to his word, Carra didn't shed any tears as he led the lap of honour around the pitch at the end of the match and season. Typically understated, he said a few words of thanks to the fans, who responded with yet more applause for the 35-year old. 

The emotion of the day was evident for everyone concerned, but the magnitude of his retirement probably won't set in until the opening day of next season, when it will undoubtedly be strange to begin a campaign without Carra, who will surely miss the excitement of a new season as he sits in the Sky studio providing his expert analysis.

The Liverpool legend that is Jamie Carragher has finally retired and he will be forever remembered as a working class hero who gave his all to the Reds' cause.

You'll Never Walk Alone, Carra

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