Liverpool-Chelsea Wrap: Steven Gerrard’s Reds Competitive With John Terry’s Blues


May 10, 2015

Liverpool’s season is walking to its conclusion, but the Reds still tried to prove something against Chelsea.

Liverpool and Chelsea played to a 1-1 draw Sunday at Stamford Bridge, putting the teams’ rivalry to rest for the next few months. While Chelsea continued to celebrate its coronation as Premier League champions with their home fans and a “guard of honor” from its opponent, Liverpool’s faded hopes of qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League evaporated with the stalemate.

John Terry gave Chelsea an early lead when he headed home Cesc Fabregas’ corner kick in the fifth minute. Terry became the highest-scoring defender in Premier League history with his 39th career goal in England’s top flight.

Terry’s goal-scoring prowess and the fact Steven Gerrard scored the game-tying goal for Liverpool further highlighted the Reds’ troubles in that very department.

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Terry is still scoring, and the Chelsea captain can look ahead to next season’s title defense. But Terry’s counterpart, Gerrard, was decisive in his final game at Stamford Bridge, despite the Blues’ constant pressure and the home fans’ taunts.

Liverpool’s fifth-place finish was all but secured before the game kicked off, but Gerrard’s place as the center of attention in the pre-game building, his continued presence in the lineup and his goal-scoring contribution confirms his towering influence on the Reds will endure after he departs for Major League Soccer this summer.

Gerrard scored the goal, but his impact on the balance of play was limited. Chelsea has eased off the gas, and manager Jose Mourinho rotated four squad players into the lineup. Liverpool had a great opportunity to burst out of starting gate with Gerrard at the helm, but Chelsea led and outplayed the Reds until their unmarked captain headed in the game-tying goal in the 44th minute.

Liverpool and Chelsea improved in the second half and battled on equal footing throughout the period. Gerrard departed to a warm applause from Mourinho and the previously howling Chelsea fans when Brendan Rodgers substituted him in the 79th minute. By then, Liverpool had given glimpses into next season and beyond, and the sights should offer some encouragement to Reds everywhere.

Raheem Sterling (20), Jordon Ibe (19) and Jerome Sinclair (18), who replaced ineffective Rickie Lambert in the 68th minute, were lively and threatening in the final 20 minutes. However, they lacked the end product necessary to unlock Chelsea’s reinforced defense. A healthy Daniel Sturridge or another top striker will help the cause beyond measure against strong opponents.

Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren formed a functional partnership at the center of Liverpool’s defense, while Lucas Leiva supported them in his defensive midfield role. Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho operated well further forward, as did substituted Adam Lallana.

While Emre Can or another holding player could replace Lucas (and Gerrard) at the base of the Reds’ midfield next season, the pieces are in place around which Liverpool can build a team formidable enough to retain its current position in the league reckoning.

But Rodgers and Liverpool fans will expect better next season in games against Chelsea and other big clubs. Mourinho and Rodgers have faced off six times since the start of last season. Liverpool has won zero, drawn two and lost four of those contests, having been out-scored nine to four.

Improving on that record could make the difference between Champions League and UEFA Europa League soccer for Liverpool. Time will tell whether it will be harder to do so without Gerrard. Current signs suggest it will.

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