Steven Gerrard endured a disappointing final home match for Liverpool as Crystal Palace ruined his emotionally charged Anfield farewell with a 3-1 win in the Premier League on Saturday. Gerrard played all 90 minutes in his 709th appearance for Liverpool but couldn’t conjure up one last moment of brilliance at a stadium he has illuminated so many times in his 17-year Liverpool career.
Instead, the 34-year-old former England captain produced a fairly low-key display in a result that ended Liverpool’s slim hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. Manchester United has qualified instead. Gerrard, one of Liverpool’s greatest players, came onto the pitch before kickoff with his three daughters to a guard of honor from both teams. He will leave Liverpool after next weekend’s match at Stoke — on the final weekend of the Premier League season — to join the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The final minute of the match was played to a soundtrack of “Steven Gerrard is red’’ sung by The Kop. Liverpool fans serenaded their captain of the past 12 years with songs throughout a frustrating match for both Gerrard and the team. Liverpool took the lead through Adam Lallana in the 26th minute before conceding to Jason Puncheon’s free kick in the 43rd.
Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray scored for Palace in the second half.
Gerrard had two shots — one that was well saved and another way off target that drew mock derision from The Kop. Gerrard saluted the fans with a thumbs-up.
The game was more a celebration of an icon, a chance to say goodbye, than a football match. Liverpool went into the match with virtually no chance of finishing in the top four, and Palace was safe from relegation, so the whole evening could be dedicated to honoring the club’s best player in a generation — perhaps ever.
Gerrard’s name was the last to be read out — to huge cheers — when the teams were announced. Accompanied by his three young kids, Gerrard touched the “This is Anfield’’ sign one last time in the tunnel and walked out to the guard of honor, high-fiving each Palace player. He clapped and waved to all four stands inside Anfield, two of which had mosaics held out by fans that spelled “CAPTAIN’’ and “S8G.’’ As the club’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,’’ rang out, Gerrard laughed and played with his daughters.
By this time, Gerrard was trending on Twitter, which was awash with tributes throughout the game. He couldn’t provide a final “Gerrard moment’’ at Anfield in the 354th and last home match, but fans here have been spoiled with his moments of brilliance since he made his debut in 1998. He will have one more opportunity to add to his goal tally of 185 for Liverpool.
Gerrard’s departure will leave a huge void in the Liverpool team, and at the club. He has been captain since 2003. He has been Liverpool’s symbol for the past decade, the player the team has turned to in times of need, and has set the standard in matches and training. He departs with 10 trophies for Liverpool — and a bunch of memories.
Mane’s quickfire treble
Southampton’s Senegal forward Sadio Mane scored the fastest English top-flight hat-trick in an extraordinary 6-1 win over relegation-threatened Aston Villa at St Mary’s on Saturday. His treble was timed at two minutes and 56 seconds breaking Scotland forward Graham Leggat’s record of three minutes for Fulham in a club record 10-1 win over Ipswich Town in 1963. It also broke a 20-year-old Premier League record for the fastest treble scored by Robbie Fowler in four minutes and 33 seconds for Liverpool against Arsenal on Aug. 28 1994.
“Really? It is the fastest Premier League hat-trick?” said an amazed Mane. “The most important thing today is the victory.”
Saints manager Ronald Koeman added: “It was incredible from Sadio Mane. A player like him, to get that kind of space, he will punish you. The whole team did a good job and I’m proud.” Mane, who shook hands with some of the delighted Southampton fans at the end of the game before walking around the pitch with the match ball, struck in the 13th, 14th and 16th minutes. It was the earliest a player has scored three goals in a Premier League game, beating the 22 minutes registered by Dwight Yorke for Blackburn Rovers in 2003.
Mane is the third Southampton player to score a Premier League hat-trick after James Beattie and Matt Le Tissier.
Southampton striker Shane Long grabbed a double in the 26th and 38th minutes to put Southampton 5-0 ahead before Villa got a consolation just before the break but Saints’ Italian striker Graziano Pelle added a sixth goal in the 81st minute.