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Eagles dare to spoil Gerrard's day

Published 16/05/2015

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is preparing himself for an emotional Anfield send-off
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is preparing himself for an emotional Anfield send-off

Departing Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard's final appearance at Anfield ended in disappointment as his side could not give him the send-off the occasion demanded.

The 34-year-old midfielder bade an emotional goodbye to his spiritual home in a 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace, ahead of his summer move to Los Angeles Galaxy.

For the majority of the 44,673 inside the ground the result was not important.

But you can guarantee there was one man on the pitch for whom this stung as much as any other defeat.

Adam Lallana's opener was cancelled out by Jason Puncheon's free-kick before substitute Wilfried Zaha scored 23 seconds after coming on as a substitute.

Glenn Murray spoiled the Liverpool celebrations of their long-time servant by firing home the rebound after missing an added-time penalty as Palace deservedly left with three points.

Two mosaics - SG8 in the Kop and Captain along the lower tier of the Centenary Stand - and a guard of honour paid tribute to one of the club's greatest players.

However, in the first half there was little evidence of the Gerrard whose name and deeds are writ large in Liverpool's rich history.

It was Jordan Henderson spraying the raking crossfield balls and making driving runs into the area, his midfield colleague restricted to dropping deep and knitting play together with easy lay-offs.

The testimonial feel of the pre-match guard of honour, mosaic and back-slapping was extended into the first 20 minutes with hardly a shot or tackle in anger.

Liverpool's breakthrough, in the 26th minute, came via a helping hand from former Reds academy graduate Martin Kelly, whose backpass to Scott Dann sold his central defensive partner short allowing Lallana to steal possession and fire past Wayne Hennessey.

After that Palace dominated with Yannick Bolasie, who gave Dejan Lovren all kinds of problems on the left side of a reconstituted three-man defence, Joe Ledley and Puncheon all threatening.

It was the preamble to a brilliant equaliser as Puncheon whipped a 43rd-minute free-kick over the wall to leave Simon Mignolet, who had shifted his weight fractionally to his right, motionless.

That was not scripted as part of Gerrard's fond farewell and the question was whether the Liverpool captain, kicking towards an adoring - occasionally imploring - Kop, could do anything about it in the second half.

When the ball dropped invitingly on the edge of the area many expected to see Gerrard charging in to smash home, much like his famous strike against Olympiacos.

Instead it was Henderson, the man expected to at the very least take over the armband from Gerrard next season, who arrived and bundled a shot into the ground and wide.

When the Liverpool captain finally got himself in a position to shoot his effort did not carry the power to beat Hennessey.

The fact he was that far forward at all was out of necessity as Eagles substitute Zaha had put the visitors ahead with his first touch after coming on when he converted a deflected cross from Bolasie, who later hit the crossbar, despite there being a suspicion of offside.

Palace boss Alan Pardew would argue that was some compensation for not getting a penalty earlier for Martin Skrtel's challenge on Lee Chung-Yong, whose protests earned a reprimand from referee Jon Moss.

Lucas Leiva's appearance off the bench drew one or two glances from Gerrard, concerned his swansong may be cut short, but Brendan Rodgers' plan was to move his captain further forward.

That allowed him to at least be in the vicinity of the right areas as almost the whole ground was willing the ball to fall to the home captain for one last hurrah.

One 30-yard free-kick and a sliced effort well over from 'Gerrard territory' were as close as he came.

He fought till the end, with one crunching tackle on Pape Soure winning the ball back in a dangerous position, but even his often super-human powers could do little about the penalty award for Lucas's foul on Zaha or prevent Murray firing in the rebound after Simon Mignolet had initially saved.

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