Here’s something we wrote for the official website’s sister site LFC Xtra this week, on Steven Gerrard’s greatest Anfield performances on the eve of his final ever…
As featured on LFC Xtra:
Steven Gerrard is expected to enter the Anfield pitch on Saturday evening to a guard of honour. Both Liverpool and Crystal Palace players will applaud the 34-year-old as he emerges from the home tunnel for the last time as a Red. Barring a romantic loan return, it’ll be his final game at Anfield, 17 years after making his debut
Liverpool are settled in fifth and the visitors are comfortably mid-table with little to play for so the focus of match is going to be trained on the Reds number eight. In many ways, it’s almost fitting that the crowd will get the chance to laud the captain without having to worry about the scoreline.
The next time he’ll play a home game of football following this weekend will be at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles for MLS franchise LA Galaxy. But his Anfield legend will live on, and here are five reasons why…
Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United, Premier League, March 2001
Only one year out of his teens, Gerrard completely bossed a midfield that included Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Nicky Butt in their prime. Back then, donning the number 17 and sporting a shaven head, Gerrard bullied his world renowned opponents; out fighting, out tackling and out passing them. His 25-yard bullet of a shot past Fabien Barthez lives long in the memory, but it was his overall domineering performance that foreshadowed what we’d be seeing at Anfield for the next 14 years.
Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid, Champions League, March 2009
There are arguments as to when Gerrard truly peaked, but it’d be difficult to ignore the season of Liverpool’s title charge in 2008-09, when he scored 24 goals in all competitions, seven of which came in Europe. The defining Champions League performance arrived at home to Real Madrid in the Last 16, when Gerrard dominated the Spanish giants by maximising the freedom of playing just behind Fernando Torres. Real’s central trio of Lassana Diarra, Fernando Gago and Wesley Sneijder were visibly shocked by his strength and direct running into the box. They simply couldn’t handle him. Gerrard notched the second goal from the spot, before adding another with a brilliant half-volley from a Ryan Babel cross.
Liverpool 3-1 Napoli, Europa League, November 2010
Trailing the Italians 1-0 at half-time, Liverpool introduced their captain to save the day; he did so in emphatic style. In 14 second-half minutes, Gerrard had scored three goals, leaving fans chuckling at the sheer ease in which he’d swung a European tie. How one individual could enter the fray and stand head and shoulders above 21 fellow professionals was mind-boggling.
Liverpool 3-0 Everton, Premier League, March 2012
There probably isn’t a better way to mark a 400th Premier League appearance than scoring a match-winning hat-trick against archrivals. So it’s perhaps no surprise that’s exactly what Gerrard did on this particular milestone. Gerrard’s 90th minute goal ensured his fifth and most memorable Liverpool hat-trick. Again, he’d single-handedly driven the team to victory. The man himself picked this out as his favourite Anfield match in his press conference earlier this week.
Liverpool 3-1 Olympiakos, Champions League, December 2004
However, as a fan, it’s Gerrard’s performance against Olympiakos that really stands out. Barring perhaps the 2006 FA Cup final, this game featured his most iconic Liverpool goal, which was made all the more brilliant by its accompanying commentary. The Reds needed to win by two goals to qualify from the Champions League group stages, but after Rivaldo put the Greeks up at half-time, a minor miracle was needed. Following Florent Sinama Pongolle and Neil Mellor goals, Gerrard provided it – thundering an out-swerving half-volley into the corner of the net. The Kop lost the plot, as did fellow fans, players and management alike. Liverpool won the game, progressed to the final, and secured a fifth European Cup in Istanbul.
We’re not expecting or even hoping for any such antics on Saturday, but with Gerrard, we’ll never, ever rule anything out.