Steven Gerrard fires a parting shot at Chelsea's fans
Chelsea 1 Liverpool 1
Published 11/05/2015 | 02:30
Steven Gerrard hit Chelsea with a header during the match and a volley after it.
Presented with an opportunity to commend Chelsea fans for their standing ovation as his farewell tour took in an otherwise bilious Bridge, Liverpool's captain responded by lambasting them for their abusive songs and "Caution - slip hazard" laminated placards about him.
He could have been diplomatic and decorous, could have been polite and thanked his hosts for the momentary cessation of hostilities but the Huyton kid in him came out fighting.
"Chelsea fans have shown me respect for a couple of seconds but slaughtered me all day,'' he said. "It was nice of them to turn up for once today". Ouch.
This was Gerrard unplugged, unconsidered, undignified. His barb resembled the verbal equivalent of his battering challenge on Manchester United's Ander Herrera at Anfield on March 22. Take that. The twilight of his career almost carries echoes of his early days, the reckless challenges and heated moments.
Gerrard is, of course, too professional, and too dedicated to Liverpool's cause to use these final moments to settle old scores but it doesn't half feel like it.
Thoughts of his finest moments in that famous shirt are clearly at the forefront of his mind as he prepares to wear it for the final time.
Last week, Gerrard was asked by a BBC reporter whether his goal against QPR "was your best-ever header?" He replied: "Istanbul wasn't bad."
To which the reporter remarked: "I forgot about that." "I don't,'' was Gerrard's instant response.
The curtain falling on a celebrated career is inevitably emotional which might explain his outburst which actually left Chelsea fans occupying the moral high ground.
It is, perhaps, slightly harsh to criticise Gerrard when only those who have been in his situation, taking corners as foam-flecked strangers a yard away berate him, can understand the pressure but he should take their caustic chants as compliments.
Closing fast on his 35th birthday, a usually reflective character should note that rival fans rarely bother singing about poor opposition players.
He has endured it before and received plenty here. Walking towards the Matthew Harding stand to take a first-half corner, Gerrard was greeted with countless hand gestures which would not be found in nearby Knightsbridge etiquette schools.
When Liverpool's captain fell over at one point, deceived by a turn from the outstanding Cesc Fabregas, the Chelsea fans crowed "he slips when he wants", harking back to Gerrard's stumble at Anfield last season that allowed Demba Ba to score and effectively end Liverpool's title dream.
Chelsea fans have long insulted the symbol of Liverpool because he rejected their overtures in 2004 and 2005, choosing to stay at Anfield, because of a decade-long duel with Frank Lampard and because of residual grief over the 2005 Champions League "ghost goal" semi-final.
Spilling over into the national sphere, there has always been the issue over the England armband which the Shed and Matthew Harding ends felt belonged to John Terry.
How fitting that Terry should score here, taking early control of the plot-line, before Gerrard equalised, claiming the focus back.
The Liverpool captain refused to celebrate only his second goal in 40 games against Chelsea, seemingly because he wanted to get on with trying to secure all points but his withdrawal on 79 minutes was sportingly acknowledged by Chelsea fans.
Jose Mourinho held his thumb up in appreciation of the crowd's salute, although moments later many launched back into the Gerrard "slip" song.
At the final whistle, Mourinho embraced a player he called a "dear enemy", a powerhouse midfielder he tried to recruit for Inter Milan and Real Madrid as well as twice during his first Chelsea spell. Gerrard was finally in Mourinho's clutches, and then was gone, down into the tunnel, towards an inviting microphone.
Maybe there was also frustration at the outcome shaping his words. Maybe he felt time's unforgiving passage with a young English central-midfielder stepping into the fray and impressing.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek did well on his full debut for Chelsea, making some good interceptions, snaking out those long legs to nick the ball, shadowing Philippe Coutinho, and distributing the ball simply and accurately. All of his 27 passes found their intended destination.
Maybe Gerrard was aggrieved that the draw all but condemned Liverpool to the Europa League, a fate that Chelsea fans certainly mentioned loudly.
Liverpool are now six points and 14 goals adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United with only two games remaining.
Amazingly, given the enmity between the sides, there were half-and-half Chelsea and Liverpool friendship scarves on offer outside Stamford Bridge for £10, although the salesman admitted he was prepared to negotiate.
Maybe it was the sight of Terry scoring, meaning that Chelsea defenders have now contributed 20 goals in all competitions this season.
With Luis Suarez gone and Daniel Sturridge injured, Liverpool have laboured for goals and Gerrard is their top scorer with 12, eight in the Premier League.
Whatever his post-match dig, Gerrard began the afternoon in gracious mode, forming a guard of honour as Terry and the new champions emerged and walked down a blue carpet.
There was no standing on ceremony by the champions. Fabregas lunged at Raheem Sterling, catching the Liverpool attacker on the ankle.
Andre Marriner deemed Fabregas' dangerous challenge worthy only of yellow, laughable really given the velocity and venom.
Fabregas was soon inflicting more damage on Liverpool with his 18th Premier League assist of the season, curling in a corner that dropped towards a melee of players.
Terry wanted the ball most, attacking it with strength and timing, beating Rickie Lambert to head it powerfully past Simon Mignolet.
In registering his 39th Premier League goal, Terry broke David Unsworth's record for a defender in the division.
On the cusp of half-time, Jordan Henderson lifted in a free-kick and Gerrard escaped John Obi Mikel to direct a downward header into the net for his first goal against Chelsea since October 2005. Gerrard and his team emerged first for the second half, and played well. A mazy run from Sterling ended with a cutback for Coutinho, who shot just wide.
Gerrard was then substituted, giving the Chelsea fans their chance to clap him and then castigate him. Old hostilities resumed, continued by Gerrard after the final whistle. (© Daily Telegraph, London)