As one of our greatest ever players calls time on his playing career, much will be written about people’s favourite Steven Gerrard moment/goal, with Olympiakos and Istanbul very likely to be at the top of the list.
But my favourite Gerrard moment, and to this day my favourite ever Liverpool goal, came twelve months later in Cardiff.
Picture the scene. The Reds were heavy favourites to win their seventh FA Cup against a West Ham side who had only returned to the Premier League that season and who we’d completed a league double over. On a gloriously hot afternoon at the Millennium Stadium, we had a nightmare start, with Pepe Reina fumbling one into the path of Dean Ashton and Carra putting through his own net. We were 2-0 down and stirring down the barrel. This looked one game too many for a team playing its 60th competitive match of a season that had began the previous July.
A fine volley from Djibril Cisse reduced the arrears before half time, before Gerrard himself levelled with a goal similar to Michael Owen’s equaliser against Arsenal at the same venue 5 years earlier.
Just minutes later though, an innocuous looking Paul Koncheskey cross from the left floated over Pepe Reina’s head to restore West Ham’s lead. The disbelief on Koncheskey’s face said it all. When you’ve fought back from 2-0 down only to concede again in such a manner, you start thinking it’s not your day.
But as the clock ticked into injury time and all hope looked lost, the ball dropped to the feet of the Liverpool skipper fully 30 yards from goal. I was smack bang behind that goal as Gerrard caught it absolutely perfectly with that wand of a right foot, hitting a shot with the power and precision of a laser guided missile that flew into the bottom corner of Shaka Hislop’s net. This was no hit and hope – no goalkeeper in the world would have saved it. Gerrard had produced countless world class finishes before, and in big games, but to do it when he was dead on his feet, with seconds remaining in the FA Cup final with so much on the line, is testament to what Steven Gerrard meant to Liverpool FC.
Imagine Alan Pardew had won an FA Cup final against us as a manager to add to THAT goal? Imagine Paul Koncheskey had emulated Lawrie Sanchez and Pardew himself and scored a famous FA Cup winner against us, one that would inevitably be replayed every time he was involved in a big tie or faced the Reds? Imagine being reminded of the day they beat us in the FA Cup final every time we faced West Ham? Thanks to Steven Gerrard, none of those things happened!
Other players played their part that day – Cisse’s brilliant finish got us back into it, Momo Sissoko’s energy was priceless in extra time and Pepe Reina was the match winner in the end, making a miraculous late save from Marlon Harewood before coming up trumps in the penalty shoot-out.
But without that piece of brilliance from Steven Gerrard in the 91st minute, we’d have lost the FA Cup final that day, pure and simple. Big games are often defined by big contributions from big players. Cardiff 2006 became known as the “Gerrard final” and rightly so!
Written by @Pilnick_Jimmy