LONDON – Steven Gerrard will not be Liverpool’s saviour this season after a 1-1 draw at Premier League champions Chelsea effectively ended the visitors’ hopes of a top-four finish.
Liverpool needed to inflict Chelsea’s first Stamford Bridge loss in the league this season to keep their slim chances of qualifying for the Champions League alive, but the visitors fell behind to John Terry’s header after five minutes.
Gerrard, described by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho as a “dear enemy” ahead of the match, equalised with a header before half-time — but it was not enough for the Reds.
Brendan Rodgers’ side are six points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with two games to play and a goal difference of 14 to overcome, meaning they will almost certainly be playing Europa League football next term.
Gerrard plays his final game at Anfield against Crystal Palace next Saturday before leaving for Major League Soccer, while Chelsea’s victory tour continues at West Brom next Monday.
Terry’s season will end with him lifting the Premier League trophy on May 24, something Gerrard will now never do.
Last season, the Blues ended Liverpool’s hopes of a first championship in 24 years, and Gerrard has not been allowed to forget it.
His slip allowed Demba Ba to score in a fateful fixture at Anfield, and he was the subject of plenty of songs on Sunday.
Mourinho subsequently spoke of football’s authorities wanting Chelsea to be “the clowns in the circus” that day in a fixture which came in close proximity to the Blues’ Champions League semi-final.
Twelve months on and it was Liverpool — unchanged following their win over QPR — who stood either side of a blue carpet to form a guard of honour as the Chelsea players emerged onto the pitch.
Terry scored with ease, with Gerrard taking advantage of similarly slack marking in a contest that lacked the usual intensity of games between these two.
Gerrard was replaced 11 minutes from time, with Mourinho leading the applause, as the match ended level.
Chelsea had made five changes, with midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek given his first start, while Diego Costa was not risked and is unlikely to feature again this term.
The champions showed there would be no let-up despite sealing the title with three matches to spare, and poor defending contributed to Terry’s goal.
The Chelsea captain climbed above Rickie Lambert to meet a Cesc Fabregas corner, and his header beat Gerrard on the line.
It was Terry’s fifth Premier League goal of the season and 39th in all, taking him beyond David Unsworth’s record tally for a defender.
In the first minute, Fabregas had been booked by referee Andre Marriner for a late challenge on Raheem Sterling and then tugged the Liverpool livewire back, only to escape further censure and a possible dismissal.
Thibaut Courtois saved from Philippe Coutinho and Simon Mignolet denied Fabregas before Chelsea were forced into a change as Kurt Zouma hobbled off to be replaced by Gary Cahill.
Gerrard, who appeared to be struggling with the pace of the game, slipped when challenging Fabregas down Chelsea’s right — much to the delight of the home support.
But the Liverpool skipper’s riposte was a goal. After Branislav Ivanovic was booked for a foul on Lallana, Jordan Henderson floated a free-kick to the far post and Gerrard headed in.
There was no celebration after his team-high 12th of the season.
Coutinho fired wide from Sterling’s set-up early in the second period as Liverpool resumed strongly.
Chelsea were dangerous on the counter-attack, though, and Willian fired wide after a move that began when Gerrard lost out to Fabregas.
Liverpool’s defence next opened up for Fabregas, but he scuffed a left-footed shot at Mignolet before then having an effort blocked by Skrtel.
Eden Hazard skipped past Gerrard but was crowded out as he tried to find space to shoot.
It was the Liverpool captain’s final action as he was replaced by Lucas.
Coutinho’s deflected effort temporarily sent Courtois the wrong way, but the goalkeeper recovered, and Henderson volleyed wide as Liverpool searched in vain for a late winner. – ESPN FC