After years of being taunted by Chelsea supporters, and particularly this season when he has been repeatedly reminded of his costly slip when the two teams met at Anfield 12 months ago, Gerrard’s final appearance at Stamford Bridge gained the recognition it deserved.
Not that Gerrard was in the mood to forgive and forget.” I was more happy with the ovation from the Liverpool fans,” he said. “The Chelsea fans showed respect for a couple of seconds for me but slaughtered me all game so I’m not going to get drawn into wishing the Chelsea fans well. It’s nice of them to turn up for once today.
“But yes, the standing ovation from a stadium is always nice but what’s important to me is the Liverpool fans and they have been there since day one.”
Of much greater significance to Gerrard was his side’s failure to qualify for the Champions League.
The midfielder’s 44th minute equaliser, cancelling out John Terry’s early header, means that, mathematically, they could still reach the top four but nobody expects them to close a six-point gap on Manchester United in the final two games, let alone improve their goal difference by 14 goals.
Against a Chelsea side that showed signs of having enjoyed an extra day off following last Sunday’s victory over Crystal Palace that secured the Premier League title, Liverpool fell short.
The focus at Anfield is now on next season and Gerrard’s reaction confirmed the frustration at their failure to build on last season’s progress runs deep.
“We have come up a bit short,” said the midfielder. “It’s important the lads get some rest after these last couple of games and the owners try and dig deep and help Brendan and the lads out and try and make some additions and try and improve. There is a great core of players here with terrific potential and the future is looking alright.
“But it is important that you try and compete with the giant clubs in the league because they are all going to spend big and this league is getting more and more difficult every year.
“We found that out this year. We lost Suarez, we haven’t had Sturridge available and it’s been pretty tough.”
Chelsea’s progress this season has highlighted how far Liverpool must travel if they are to close the gap and while Jose Mourinho’s side were below their best, they looked assured and had the added bonus of an impressive first start for young midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Cesc Fabregas was fortunate to escape a first minute red card for an ugly challenge on Raheem Sterling before Terry was allowed to rise unchallenged to head home from Fabregas’s corner in the fourth minute. The Chelsea captain is now the Premier League’s highest-scoring defender but the fact Chelsea failed to build on that start confirmed they are a team that is now running down the clock on the season.
“After being champions, celebrating and a couple of days off, it’s normal your intensity goes a bit down,” said Mourinho. “We played at our limits for many weeks trying to reach the title as soon as possible. I knew today would be difficult for some players.
“But we gave them a game. We did what we had to do, letting the Premier League follow the normal route until the end of the season. We were by far and away the best team in the first half. Liverpool were much more aggressive with the ball in the second half, and the result was a fair result.”
Poor marking in the Chelsea area allowed Gerrard to mirror Terry’s effort and while the visitors shaded the second half, they were unable to erase the feeling of frustration they had experienced even before the first whistle.
“It is not nice when you are doing it for other people but this football club has always shown respect and the guard of honour comes with tradition,” said Gerrard. “So Chelsea have won the league, they are champions, they have a terrific manager and they deserved the guard of honour today but it certainly wasn’t nice doing it.”
Courtois 6; Ivanovic 6, Zouma 6 (Cahill 33, 7), Terry 8, Luis 6; Loftus-Cheek 6 (Matic 60,6), Mikel 6; Willian 6, Fabregas 7, Hazard 6; Remy 5 (Cuadrado 83,6).
Mignolet 6; Can 6, Skrtel 7, Lovren 6, Johnson 6; Henderson 7, Gerrard 8 (Leiva 79,6), Coutinho 8; Sterling 7, Lambert 5 (Sinclair 68), Lallana 7 (Ibe 71,6)