Belfast Telegraph

Now Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard may see his future with Chelsea

By Kevin Garside

Typical of Steven Gerrard to embrace the demand, to roll up his sleeves and rally those around him. This, he said in his pre-match address, was the kind of night that defines a team, and for some a career.

For all but the last 10 minutes that appeared nothing more than a fairy story, Basel turning superiority into a goal after 25 minutes. It was Gerrard who marched back to the centre circle, urging his team-mates to respond and it was the captain who answered the call, bending belief as well as the ball with a blinding free-kick.

After an absence of five years, their Champions League return was never meant to be a burden. But this is what it had become, the only win in the group delivered via a last-minute penalty, debatable at that, put away by Gerrard at home to Ludogorets.

A win against Basel and anything might be possible was the sentiment swirling around Anfield. After all there was a precedent to this kind of dreaming; again Gerrard was at the heart of it a decade ago, scoring the goal that saw off Olympiakos.

We all know where that led, to Istanbul and Gerrard's finest moment. Last night was a kind of groundhog day, pitching him at the same crossroads - what to do at the season's end?

Victory over Milan altered the course of history. A proposed move to Chelsea was never on after a night in which Liverpool embellished their legend with a fifth European Cup victory against the odds.

Gerrard thought then that his career ambitions could be met at the club he loved.

To be fair, Rafa Benitez thought so too. Together skipper and manager took the fight to Manchester United, coming within a point of the championship in 2009. He learned in 2010 and again this term, that optimism and progression are not necessarily aligned. Bitter experience has taught Gerrard otherwise.

If he is ever to embellish his career with the league winners' medal his talent deserves, then he will almost certainly have to walk away from Anfield, which made last night's engagement all the more significant for him.

Chelsea remains an obvious destination. Judging by the success of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, both playing key roles in semi-retirement at Chelsea and Manchester City, who is to say Gerrard would not prosper playing a reduced schedule at Stamford Bridge?

Gerrard was restored to his attacking role, still the most menacing red shirt. His was the first strike of the night, a side-footed effort that, had it fallen at his feet later, may have been dispatched with venom.

It proved a false friend. The red tide of last season is only a memory now. Basel might have been two to the good at the break, having a second chalked off for offside.

Gerrard can't spell quit. A strident tackle after Lazar Markovic's sending off and a late surge that might have yielded a penalty presaged what was to come. But it turned out to be his Dylan Thomas moment, a protest against the dying of the red light.

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