Crystal Palace scupper Steven Gerrard’s Anfield farewell
Liverpool legends were out in force to bid farewell to skipper Steven Gerrard in an emotional last outing at Anfield, but Crystal Palace spoiled the script with a well deserved 3-1 win.
Reds fans were in fine voice to honour their captain, and Brendan Rodgers’ boys initially rallied and appeared to respond to the occasion, beginning brightly to dominate possession and peg Palace back.
Alan Pardew’s side were not put off by the pomp and ceremony, however, and rode the early attacking storm well. The Eagles were in an experimental mood, as the crafty coach paired rapid wingman Yannick Bolasie up top with marksman Marouane Chamakh.
Pardew’s tinkering almost bore instantaneous fruit as Bolasie fired an early warning shot, deflected wide by Martin Skrtel in the 22nd minute.
It was the Merseyside men who drew first blood, however, with attacker Adam Lallana’s first goal since his FA Cup winner against the Eagles back in February coming courtesy of Palace’s miscommunication.
Reds old boy Martin Kelly’s misplaced pass put fellow defender Scott Dann under pressure, and Lallana duly pounced, keeping his cool to slot a Gerrad-esque strike past stopper Wayne Hennessey on the 25th minute mark.
Palace’s predators responded excellently, however, with the electric Jason Puncheon and brilliant Bolasie both crafting openings that were fluffed by poor finishing. The Eagles were clearly content to sit back and exploit their attacking stars’ speed on the break, and Rodgers will have been concerned by how easily the guests carved open the Reds’ rearguard.
After bold Bolasie was brought down by Emre Can on the edge of the area in the 42nd minute, Puncheon stepped up to confidently curl the resulting free kick past Simon Mignolet, who could only look on as the superb strike nestled in the right hand corner.
The Londoners emerged buoyant after the break and always looked the more likely to score again, though Jordan Henderson squandered two early chances, and finally had their second breakthrough in the 60th minute.
Super sub Wilfried Zaha benefited after Bolasie’s burst into the box and subsequent cross again deflected off Skrtel and into his path. The Palace prodigy swept home with his first touch of the game, and his supplier Bolasie almost made it three soon after, as he unleashed a stinging shot against the crossbar.
Centre of attention Gerrard was quiet throughout, and saw an attempt on goal foiled easily by Hennessey, before his perfectly slid pass was wasted by Can, who opted to try an ambitious ball to Philippe Coutinho instead of taking on the shot himself.
Persistent Puncheon looked as though he would deliver the final suckerpunch as his potshot trickled away from Mignolet and had to be cleared dramatically off the line, but it was Zaha who again had a hand in Liverpool’s undoing.
The speedster was judged to have been tripped by Brazilian midfield shield Lucas just inside the penalty area, and a spot kick was duly awarded. Goal hero Glenn Murray stepped up, and though Mignolet saved the first attempt, the striker dispatched the rebound with ease to seal Palace’s second 3-1 victory over the Reds this season.
Anfield applauded despite the disappointing result, as their already all-but extinguished Champions League hopes faded further, to honour departing Gerrard even in defeat.
The former England captain will still have the chance to finish his last season at Liverpool in style, as the Reds must to travel to Stoke City for the final matchweek, but a parting goal and glory on home turf would have perhaps been a more fitting end.
Plucky Palace were always out to spoil the party, however, and did so with aplomb, and so the impressive Londoners leave having claimed another famous scalp and a league double over Liverpool.