When most of the season has been spent lamenting the presence of Steven Gerrard rather than celebrating it, it's hard to be too curmudgeonly when things go right. Brendan Rodgers' handling of his most senior squad member--who announced in January that he'll be moving to LA Galaxy at season's end--has been poor, full stop, and at times his inclusion of the midfielder has likely cost Liverpool points. Combined with Gerrard's fading physical ability and stamina, it's combined to make for an unpleasant final season on Merseyside for one of the club's greatest ever servants.
Today there were glimpses of the old Gerrard, with a few efforts from distance and a two-touch dribble around the edge of the area to free up space for himself before sending a deflected shot wide. He was at the heart of the day's most unfortunate moment before he put things right as well; when Martin Skrtel was ruled to have been dragged down by Nedum Onuoha, Gerrard stepped to the spot but saw his tame penalty kick saved easily by Robert Green.
It all set up for the dramatic (if lame duck wins over a team that's going to be relegated can be considered dramatic) finish, as Gerrard headed in Philippe Coutinho's corner to put Liverpool in front and secure all three points. It's what Brendan Rodgers has been waiting for all season, and the manager underlined as much post-match:
"It's world-class talent. There's a very, very small group of players in that bracket, where in the big games they score the big goals and make the big contributions. He's done that, everyone has seen that throughout his entire career at Liverpool. He missed the penalty and sometimes you think it may go against us, but there is no-one more determined to score and make up for it than Steven. It was a very, very good header.
"He was very determined, especially after the penalty. You sometimes find with a lot of players that when they miss a big penalty like that, normally their game goes and their confidence goes. But he's the total opposite. He's one of a unique group of players that whenever they need to respond, they normally do. It was an outstanding header and obviously gets us the win. His career is probably all flashing before his eyes now. It was brilliant to get it at the Kop end as well - it was a really special moment for him. It all goes very quickly, but you can see he is still contributing at this level."
Despite the fact that Manchester United's loss against West Brom today means Liverpool are just four points off the final Champions League spot, today more or less cemented that these final few matches are going to be about giving their long-serving captain a "proper" sending-off. What that appears to mean in the mind of Rodgers is that Gerrard will play out his time at Liverpool on the pitch rather than off it, with the manager intent on wringing every last drop of skill and sentiment out of the 34-year-old.
And at this point, it's hard to put up too much of a fight, even if the slim hopes of a top four finish remain. Priority number one on the end of season list is saying goodbye to Steven Gerrard.