Steven Gerrard is Liverpool’s captain, the face of the storied club and considered by fans to be one of the greatest Liverpool players of all time. But an unfortunate slip by the Reds’ longtime Number 8 has put Liverpool’s drive for their first Premier League title, and first English top flight championship since 1990, in serious danger.
All Liverpool had to do was defeat Chelsea at Anfield Sunday to mathematically eliminate the second-place Blues from the title race, leaving Manchester City as the sole challenger for the title which until Sunday’s 2-0 defeat was Liverpool’s to lose.
But just before halftime in what was until then a tightly contested 0-0 affair, Steven Gerrard took a routine midfield pass from Mamadou Sakho — and completely botched it. Somehow, Gerrard lost his footing and dropped to his knees. Chelsea’s Demba Ba was just a few yards away and didn’t miss a trick when he saw the ball come loose.
Ba sprinted forward and, as Gerrard chased him helplessly, took the ball straight at Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet one-on-one, aggressively firing it past the sliding Belgian into the Kop-end net.
Liverpool fought back hard in the second half, but Jose Mourinho’s side knew how to protect a lead. Then in the 94th minute, Willian sent in one more Chelsea goal to put an exclamation point on the shocking victory by the London club, who now find themselves just two points off the top with 78 to 80 for Liverpool, with two matches remaining.
The defeat for Liverpool — and for Steven Gerrard — stung all the more, because Mourinho appeared to be conceding the title race coming into the match.
Preferring to chase what would be Chelsea’s second UEFA Champions League crown in three years, with a critical second-leg semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, Mourinho rested several key players, including Gary Cahill, Fernando Torres and Willian, who of course eventually got in the game.
After the match, Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers was quick to defend Steven Gerrard.
“Steven is a boy who has picked up this club so many times. And it was just really unfortunate because he slipped at a crucial moment and it was right on half-time,” Rogers said. “There’s certainly no blame because we are in the position we are in now because of him. He’s been instrumental for us this season.”
Steven Gerrard and Liverpool now face 11th-place Crystal Palace and ninth-place Newcastle, and will need to win both — but Manchester City have a game in hand and by winning all three of their final games, would take the title out of Liverpool’s hands.