Steven Gerrard, who announced his retirement on Thursday played over 850 professional football matches since bursting on to the scene as a blossoming 18-year-old in November 1998. But the Liverpool legend had some good and bad times at the club before he left for LA Galaxy. Here are some.
The Champions League final — Istanbul (2005)
The defining moment of Gerrard’s career. Trailing 3-0 at half-time to a vastly superior AC Milan side, the midfielder’s towering header soon after the break initially seemed like little more than a consolation strike, but Vladimir Smicer quickly added a second before Gerrard surged into the box to win a penalty that would complete one of the most remarkable comebacks of all time. Once Milan recovered from the shock, they took control of the game once more, but Gerrard helped to keep the Italians at bay by switching to right-back and delivering a brilliant performance that won Liverpool the trophy.
What a hit son! (2004)
Istanbul would never have happened had Gerrard not donned his Superman cape and flown to the rescue in the final game of the group stages against Olympiakos in December 2004.
Having angered many with some untimely prematch comments threatening that his future may lie elsewhere if the Reds didn’t improve, Gerrard was having a poor game against a Greek side who led at half-time courtesy of Brazilian superstar Rivaldo. Young substitutes Neil Mellor and Florent Sinama-Pongolle both scored to put Liverpool ahead, but they needed to win by two clear goals to secure qualification to the knockout stages.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. With 10 minutes remaining Gerrard latched on to Mellor’s cushioned header and almost burst the net with an 18-yard thunderbolt at the Kop end.
Few players loved a derby like Gerrard did. Many of his most iconic moments came from this fixture, not least his first Anfield derby when he made a goal-line clearance and celebrated like he’d just scored the winner in a World Cup final. His first derby goal at Goodison also stands out: a rasping drive from the right edge of the box that flew into the far corner. Even more memorable was the celebration, as he ran the entire length of the field with his hand cupped to his ear taunting the Everton fans.
Gerrard was occasionally too fired up for these games though. A studs-up lunge into the groin of Kevin Campbell saw him receive a red card in the 1999 fixture at Anfield, and he was incredibly fortunate not suffer the same fate three years later for a shocking challenge on Gary Naysmith.
In 2006, he lasted just 18 minutes before being dismissed, but Liverpool won without him. Even in the latter years of his career, he was still a thorn in Everton’s side, claiming a hat trick in 2012 and then scoring in both of his last two Anfield derbies before eventually moving on to LA Galaxy.
The man for the big occasion
Gerrard has scored in finals of the FA Cup, the League Cup, the UEFA Cup and the Champions League. His record in big games was incredible. Invariably he seemed to rise to the occasion, and it’s in those type of fixtures that legends are made.
Not only is Gerrard arguably Liverpool’s greatest ever player (at worst he’s top three), he was also the man who delivered most when it mattered, and he did it with the least amount of help. He played with some exceptional players throughout his Anfield career, but unlike some of the other greats (such as John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish) he was not part of the best team in the land and therefore had to shoulder a lot of the burden himself.
The Gerrard final — 2006
Liverpool had no right to win the 2006 FA Cup final but once again “Captain Fantastic” was there to save the day and break West Ham hearts. Having already scored one great goal and created another for Djibril Cisse, Gerrard saved his best for last when he summoned up every ounce of the strength he still had left in his legs to rifle in a spectacular long range equaliser with virtually the last kick of normal time. Liverpool eventually won after a penalty shootout (in which Gerrard scored) and the game will be forever be known as “the Gerrard Final.”
Wanting to leave Liverpool — 2004, 2005
While the vast majority of Liverpool fans are over Gerrard’s dalliances with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, it did cause a lot of bad feeling at the time and it took some fans several years to completely forgive him. Had he been tempted by Real Madrid or Barcelona it would have been different, but Liverpool supporters don’t take kindly to their players wanting to move to another English club, particularly Chelsea. Gerrard made the right decision by staying. He may have won more medals had he joined Chelsea but he’d have lost something far more important — the love and respect of the fans.
The League Cup final — 2005
At the height of the “Gerrard to Chelsea” rumours, the two teams met at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for the League Cup final. Gerrard’s performance that day was abysmal, he could barely do a thing right, and his head was clearly all over the place. He was even struck down by cramp midway through the second half, which was something that you rarely saw from him. The first person on the scene to help was Frank Lampard, which angered supporters who were already unhappy about public attempts by Chelsea players to “tap Gerrard up.” Almost unbelievably, Liverpool lost the game in extra time after an own goal scored by — yes, you guessed it, Gerrard.
Sent off against Man United — 2015
Gerrard had been left on the bench by Brendan Rodgers for what was to be the last time he would face United at Anfield. He was agitated by that, and his angst grew throughout a first half in which Liverpool barely made a tackle. An angry Gerrard came on at half-time and wanted to set the tone for his teammates but got it badly wrong and was sent off within just 38 seconds for a silly stamp on Ander Herrera, showing that even at 34 years of age, the wild teenage Gerrard was still in there.
The slip — 2014
It shouldn’t have happened; it’s incredibly unfair that it happened. But it did happen and Gerrard will never get over it. Supporters won’t get over it either. Even if Liverpool go on to win the league for the next 10 years in a row, nothing will ever erase the memory of Gerrard slipping to gift a goal to Demba Ba that April afternoon against Chelsea. A 2-0 defeat which handed Man City the title and left the Reds empty-handed again.
The way it ended — 2015
Gerrard’s last two games for Liverpool were an insipid 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace, and a disgraceful 6-1 surrender at Stoke City. Gerrard himself didn’t play particularly badly in either game (he scored against Stoke), but for his teammates to allow his time at the club to end like that is a shame that should stay with them for the rest of their lives.