Following Steven Gerrard’s choice to hang his boots up from professional football, the news caused an epidemic on social media – unfortunately, most of which was dominated by some United fans intent to remind us of the unfortunate moment the title proved elusive again for Gerrard.
Fortunately, though, on the contrary, many pundits, managers, world-class players have paid tribute to Gerrard’s career – an incredible one spanning from 1998, when he came through the young ranks at Melwood.
The local lad, himself, has won every club trophy there has to be – bar the Premier League (somehow) and the FIFA Club World Cup. Regardless of that farcical moment in 2014, when Gerrard slipped in a league match against Chelsea – a game which proved to have a colossal influence on our season, for the wrong reasons obviously.
But, that’s a bit like saying Buffon isn’t world-class because he didn’t win the Champions League? Or Messi being billed as not world-class for not winning an international trophy? It’s easy to remember what goes wrong for a footballer, and have complete disregard for their achievements. It’s been epitomised by sections of rival fanbases mocking Gerrard for his club & international achievements, which clearly indicates envy.
To conclude, his legacy on football must not be under-estimated. Even the likes of Kaka, Wenger, Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson etc have had the decency to appreciate Steven’s magnitude.
Anyway, enough of my waffling – here’re my favourite moments that Gerrard had in an LFC shirt.
Gerrard’s corker v Olympiakos (8th December 2004, Champions League group stage)
The odds were heavily against Liverpool qualifying for the group stages, having plunged themselves into such a complicated situation that meant they needed to win by 2 clear goals to progress from the group (which consisted of the likes of Monaco, Deportivo La Coruna & Olympiakos) – we had managed to collect 7 points from a possible 9 so far by the time the Greek side came to Anfield in December 2004.
The skipper made the headlines before the game, stating “I don’t want to wake up on Wednesday morning in the UEFA Cup” in his pre-match words of wisdom. This was labelled a turning point for us, however our status in the group looked in serious jeopardy when Brazilian Rivaldo put Olympaikos ahead with a free kick past the helpless Chris Kirkland.
At half time, Liverpool needed 3 goals to go through. It brought a bold response from the manager, who brought on Florent-Sinama Pongolle. The Frenchman immediately got on the scoresheet, making it 1-1. But, it still wasn’t good enough at the stage for LFC, so the Spaniard once again pounced, bringing on promising young prodigy Neil Mellor; he too got in on the act to put the Reds ahead, stretching to divert the ball in.
The atmosphere at this point in Anfield was crackling. The fans were beginning to make an unerring atmosphere, beginning to believe in a third goal. And boy was it delivered, it was the captain himself.
Neil Mellor cushioned a header in Gerrard’s path (using Tyler’s words there), who sweetly struck the ball in the bottom right-hand corner past the helpless Nikopolidis. He sent Anfield into raptures in the process. There wasn’t a better feeling of belief at the end of the day, but this felt like a Steven-Gerrard game, in the perfect scenario. Obviously not forgetting Sinama-Pongolle’s & Mellor’s impact. It proved the catalyst for a remarkable run in the Champions League – even though at the time nobody knew what was ahead.
Gerrard’s header v AC Milan (25th May 2005, Champions League Final)
This game also deserves a mention. Although this goal didn’t win us the trophy necessarily, it played a huge impact in the comeback we produced to stun the Italians in the second half – arguably this proved to be the springboard for us winning the trophy.
We were 3-0 down at half-time, and commentators, pundits, opposition supporters etc were doom-mongering on us (couldn’t blame them!) – with many predicting AC Milan to go and score 5 or even 6. I don’t think I need to explain what happened in the dressing room at half-time, but it seemed as if it was a completely different team out there. We were making a mockery of Milan, and how exquisite they were in the 1st half.
The minute we stepped out for the 2nd half, we looked rejuventated. It felt as if the players in the 1st half were kipping throughout the 1st 45 minutes, but woke up in the second thanks to Rafa. Riise found some space & freedom on the left to chip a superb ball to Gerrard, who surprisingly had ACRES of space between the two best defenders (arguably) at the time; Alessandro Nesta & Jaap Stam.
He connected perfectly with it, though, and sent the flying into the corner, leaving Dida with no chance. His galvanising celebration, where he raised his arms to the Liverpool supporters as a message of “COME ON!” set the tone for the rest of the game. This goal proved absolutely vital for us, as it gave us the momentum for us to go on and score 2 more – of course, also winning the penalty shootout in the process.
Gerrard’s screamer v West Ham (13th May 2006, FA Cup Final)
I don’t think I really need to explain this. But I will.
We went into this game as favourites to lift the end-of-season trophy to add to our bestowed trophy cabinet against West Ham United, a side promoted from the Championship the previous season under Alan Pardew.
It looked as if the players were suffering deja-vu from Istanbul though for long periods at the start – Jamie Carragher stretching, poked the ball in his own net – and then Reina’s blunder led to Dean Ashton doubling West Ham’s lead. You could hear a pin-drop from the Liverpool contingent.
Djbril Cisse, though,, volleyed in fine fashion to give Liverpool some respite going into half-time, before Gerrard thumped the ball home past Shaka Hislop to make it 2-2. Liverpool were unable to find a third though and Paul Konchesky, of all people, saw his tame looking delivery make its way past Jose Reina, somehow.
As the time ticked down, it looked as if West Ham were going to lift the FA Cup, and LFC were going to lift a good season trophyless. However, thanks to the right foot of Steven Gerrard, we were able to not worry about this game haunting us & our grandchildren in the future. Imagine the media stick we would’ve received if we didn’t win!
As it then went to the penalty shootout, Reina was our hero once again, producing a vital stop from Anton Ferdinand ensuring we lifted our 7th FA Cup. Unfortunately, this proved to be our last major trophy under Rafael Benitez, but not in a rush to forget Gerrard’s magic!
It’s not easy choosing out of these three, so I’m going to settle on Gerrard’s goal v West Ham in 2006. There are other notable mentions though. Hopefully this piece will allow others to appreciate Gerrard & what he has delivered for us – he was a colossus at international & club level.
Written by @SteLindellLFC