There’s no eloquent way to start this off and I won’t even try; that’s not the ending that anyone expected and certainly not the farewell that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard deserved.
That being said, quite often only fairy tales end the way you’d expect. Adam Lallana looked to be sticking to the prescribed plot when he capitalized on a error from ex-Reds defender Martin Kelly to steal away the opener, but from there on the story took a decidedly less savoury twist. Crystal Palace attacker Jason Puncheon, who scored a marvellous free-kick against Manchester United last weekend, did it again to draw the visitors level before the break and things only got worse from there. Wilfried Zaha found the net less than 30-seconds after coming onto the pitch as Alan Pardew’s men went ahead on the hour mark and Glenn Murray followed up his own saved penalty to ensure that the Liverpool skipper’s party was well and truly spoiled.
Applauded onto the pitch by both sets of supporters and met with mosaics around the ground and a guard of honour on the hallowed grass of Anfield, the build-up far outweighed the end product with the Reds producing yet another lacklustre 90-minutes of football. Much like the FA Cup semi-final loss to Aston Villa just under a month ago, the occasion once again got the better of them.
The prospect of securing Champions League football for next season was off the table after last weekend’s draw with Chelsea and we responded in kind, putting in a performance that was about worth our accomplishments this season. Tentative when they should have been commanding and bereft of ideas when the match was crying out for ingenuity, there’s no question that the Eagles were deserved winners on the day — much better than their hosts were bad. What that means for the future remains to be seen with the Anfield outfit now in danger of missing out on a European spot altogether, but that point will fall by the wayside for the time being.
Palace may have given us a worrying lesson in a how a team operates on the pitch, but that was never going to be at the forefront of the match no matter what kind of performance we ended up putting in. If there’s a player that deserves to have the focus it’s the Reds captain. You know the story as well as I do and you don’t need me to rehash the endless list of reasons why he means so much to so many — history and class have never needed advocates to echo their triumphs, but you couldn’t stop Anfield from doing exactly that. Win, lose or draw, Merseyside promised to send Gerrard out in style and the best supporters in the world succeeded where the players came up short.