Sunday, 17 May 2015

Palace poop the party on Gerrard's Anfield farewell

Crystal Palace proved the party poopers as they beat Liverpool 3-1 in Gerrard’s final match at Anfield as a Liverpool player before he departs for the States in the summer. Goals from Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray more than cancelled out Adam Lallana’s opener and gave Pardew’s men the win their performance deserved, as Gerrard’s Anfield career ended on a disappointing note.

Nonetheless, the most important thing was never going to be the result; it was always the farewell that Anfield gave Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, and the crowd didn’t disappoint, as the skipper revelled in the reception he received from admiring supporters sad to see him go but immensely grateful for the way in which he has carried this football club throughout his inimical career.

Gerrard high five's all the Palace players and the officials as they give him a guard of honour
The guard of honour given to Steven Gerrard as he walked out onto the Anfield pitch for the final time with his daughters was undoubtedly the most noteworthy thing that happened until Adam Lallana opened the scoring on 26 minutes. Before then, the match felt like a testimonial and was played at pre-season pace.

Liverpool began the better, but ironically it wasn’t until Palace came back into the match that they claimed the lead. The visitors were settling down and beginning to threaten, when former Liverpool defender Martin Kelly sent a stray ball right into the path of the on-rushing Lallana, who eased past Scott Dann and finished past Wayne Hennessey to give the Merseysiders the lead.

Lallana celebrates his goal with his teammates
It would have been harsh to describe Lallana’s goal as against the run of play, but at the same time Liverpool weren’t exactly peppering efforts on Hennessey’s goal. Palace, meanwhile, were growing in confidence, and their attack was in particularly good form, although admittedly Liverpool’s defence was woeful.

Lovren was given a torrid time by the twisting and turning Bolasie, while Can was erratic, and it was his foul that gave away the free kick from which Puncheon equalised. Having already called Mignolet into action with a decent strike on the half hour mark, the 28-year old striker caught the Reds’ Belgian keeper out with a free kick swung into the bottom corner of the side of the goal that he was supposed to be covering.

Puncheon, the man of the match, equalised for Palace on the stroke of half time
It was shoddy keeping from Mignolet but no more than Palace deserved following a great response to going one behind. They only improved in the second half, too, while the Reds’ performance deteriorated, particularly defensively, where they were all other the place.

After seeing a couple of good penalty shouts turned down by referee Jonathan Moss, Palace substitute Zaha gave the Londoners the lead only 22 seconds after replacing South Korean team mate Lee Chung-Yong, scoring with his first touch as he bundled home Bolasie’s cross after Congolese skinned Lovren all too easily.

Zaha's goal had a hint of offside
In response, Rodgers made two changes, introducing Lucas and Lambert. Unfortunately, it seemed to make little difference, and Liverpool’s defensive difficulties continued to remain their Achilles heel. In fact, only a minute after those subs were made Bolasie blazed against the bar after a defensive mishap from Moreno allowed him to cut in from the right.

There were hopes of one final Steven Gerrard inspired comeback, and the skipper tried his hardest to make it happen, seeing Hennessey save his right footed shot well and curling a free kick from ideal Gerrard range just over the top left hand corner.

It wasn’t to be, though, and Palace made sure of the three points in injury time with the help of a poor decision from referee Moss, who pointed to the spot despite Lucas’ foul on Zaha clearly taking place just outside the box.

Glenn Murray stepped up and saw Mignolet save his initial spot kick but then turned home the rebound with relative ease before celebrating in front of the delighted away supporters in the Anfield Road end. There was also a hint of offside for Zaha’s goal, so Liverpool were slightly unlucky with the two goals that ultimately gave Palace the victory, but the Reds’ could have few complaints.

Credit to them, Crystal Palace were the better side and fully deserved the win that almost spoiled the party. At the end of the day, however, it was all about that man Stevie Gerrard, and remembering his fantastic Liverpool career and celebrating it one last time at Anfield.

He was given a memorable send off by the home crowd during the traditional lap of honour at the end of the final home game of the season, and the away supporters also stayed behind to salute Stevie as well in what was a sign of Gerrard’s universal appeal to football fans of all clubs.

Gerrard says goodbye to the Kop
There’s something compelling about his love for and loyalty to Liverpool that makes him likeable across the footballing spectrum, and he’s one of a kind that we are unlikely to ever see in the beautiful game again; a genuinely world class player who stays true to his beloved local boyhood club through thick and thin, sacrificing personal glory for its good.

Stevie, you will always be our hero and we’ll never forget the many memories you gave us of the times of our Liverpool supporting lives.


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