Liverpool gave a rousing send-off to Jamie Carragher after 16 outstanding years and 737 games as the bed-rock of their defence but the width of a post denied him the perfect one as football again refused to follow the script. Carragher struck the woodwork on his farewell performance with a thunderous drive from 25 yards, yes really, to leave Anfield briefly in despair. One last clean sheet was far more appropriate.
Carragher’s 62nd-minute shot apart, the script was followed to perfection as Anfield said farewell to one of its greatest servants. Steven Gerrard, wearing a suit and a sling following a recent shoulder operation, led a guard of honour for the 35-year-old before kick off with Luis Suarez alongside him. Queens Park Rangers also lined up in tribute before falling to defeat courtesy of Philippe Coutinho’s stunning first half finish.
The Kop held aloft a mosaic that read ‘JC 23′ and then Carragher emerged with his children, James and Mia, to a chorus of Anfield dreaming of a team of Carraghers. He looked suitably nonplussed, embarrassed even, once he reached the centre circle and immediately signalled for his team-mates to join him for the warm-up. Carragher had said it was more important to collect three points and a clean sheet than receive personal accolades and he was not disappointed as Brendan Rodgers’s team bowed out victorious.
Liverpool were in a different league to their relegated opponents before the Premier League campaign had been brought to a close. An energetic, enterprising display was typical of many against the weaker sides in the division but, having failed to mount a serious challenge in any competition, even Rodgers conceded his debut season as manager was one of “disappointment and delight”.
“I have a long way to go to gain your trust fully,” wrote the Liverpool manager in his programme notes. “We must work tirelessly to bridge the gap that has been created over time. We don’t like it, but I can promise you that the work taking place on and off the field will bear fruit. The progress this season may not have come as fast as many would’ve liked but I’d rather build the base first to ensure we have sustainable success in the future.”
Rodgers cited the emergence of young talent as one major positive for Liverpool and backed that conviction by giving another teenager his first-team debut. Having relied on Raheem Sterling in left midfield throughout the first half of the season, the Liverpool manager suitably signed off with a full debut for Jordon Ibe.
The stocky 17-year-old from Bermondsey, signed from Wycombe Wanderers 18 months ago, thrived in the space granted by Rangers and had justified his inclusion prior to creating the opening goal for Coutinho. Controlling an awkward cross-field pass from Stewart Downing on his chest, Ibe cut inside Michael Harriman and Stéphane Mbia and showed the presence of mind to assist a better-placed colleague rather than take a hopeful shot. Coutinho, far and away the best of Rodgers’s signings as Liverpool manager, swept a perfect finish into Rob Green’s bottom right-hand corner from 25 yards.
That should have been the second of the game for Liverpool and their destructive Brazilian. Coutinho had somehow been left unmarked when Stewart Downing swung over a second-minute corner and steered a diving header beyond Green at the back post. Harriman hooked the header clear but Liverpool players immediately claimed the ball had crossed the line. Replays suggested they were correct.
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