Liverpool 1: Lallana 26'
Crystal Palace 3: Puncheon 43', Zaha 60', Murray 90+1'
So Steven Gerrard's final game at Anfield has come and gone. Unless the captain returns on loan, never again will Liverpool fans witness the captain trot out on the pitch at Liverpool's home ground in pursuit of victory. There was also a football game, but the guard of honour given to the captain indicated what a momentous occasion it would be irrespective of the scoreline.
The first half was one where both sides didn't have too much to play for with one game remaining in the season. A win for either side would be welcome, but even defeat for Liverpool would still leave Brendan Rodgers' side with another game to seal fifth spot. Crystal Palace have been a difficult opponent for Liverpool recently with a famous three-goal comeback last season and a Neil Warnock triumph during Liverpool's miserable form earlier in the season. They were never going to be easy opponents, but the second half was a lot worse that showed, as the manager commented after game, how much work the club will need to do in the summer.
Brendan Rodgers decided to return to a back three in pursuit of victory, with Dejan Lovren, Emre Can, and Martin Škrtel entrusted to protect Simon Mignolet with distinction. Alberto Moreno and Jordon Ibe returned to the starting line-up but didn't have great games. Moreno was particularly poor, but Dejan Lovren was truly and utterly abject. Liverpool struggled down the sides and conceded goals far too easily against quick and direct wide players. The first was a free-kick that Mignolet misjudged, the second was offside but the defending on the home side's left was horrendous, and the third stemmed from a penalty that wasn't as the contact was clearly made out side the area. Adam Lallana scored a goal, Steven Gerrard tried his best, Raheem Sterling looked lost, Philippe Coutinho probed, and Liverpool's midfield looked ill-equipped to support a struggling defence or regain control of a game that began to run away from the home side late in the first half. Rodgers played his role in Crystal Palace completing a league double over Liverpool, but deeper analysis is best left for another day.
Steven Gerrard. One of the world's most coveted players for over a decade who remained with Liverpool. Yes, he was tempted to leave but remained a Red. Gerrard was involved in only three title challenges in close to twenty years at the club but was featured in three of the most dramatic finals in football, scoring in all of them. A UEFA Cup final against Alaves, a Champions League final against AC Milan, and an FA Cup final against West Ham United. There were other trophies but those three are hard to beat. The blades of grass covered, those raking passes, shots of ferocious power, long-legged tackles, and the personification of a Red resistance have been witnessed close up and from afar.
There have been some fine players who Gerrard played with over the past 17 years, but he's also had to toil in some average Liverpool sides for years when some of the most glamorous and successful clubs in the world offered money, trophies, and world class players that Liverpool just couldn't. That's why the Anfield crowd cheered and sang in tribute to the captain in the closing stages of a desperately unsatisfactory home defeat. To see the captain smiling over the past couple of weeks redisovering a goalscoring touch underlines how disappointments in life can be temporarily forgotten by brighter moments. Since missing out on the title a year ago, Steven Gerrard has experienced some lows that he may regret later in life but carved out a fantastic career as a player.
For some fans, succumbing to excessive sentiment can be dangerous for a club with designs on winning. This fan can only sincerely say goodbye, because Liverpool's arena was the scene of something far greater than the loss of a single game in a season of disappointment. Anfield is expanding and there will be more matches where Liverpool can find glory, but Steven Gerrard's boots will never touch its grass again.
- Liverpool 1, Crystal Palace 3: Rank the Performances
- Liverpool 1, Crystal Palace 3: First Thoughts
- Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace: Ways to Watch, Streaming, Lineups and Live Coverage
- Saturday Open Thread: Team Relegate Newcastle Edition
- And the Man, Number One: Steven Gerrard's Liverpool Career in Highlights