LIVERPOOL, May 18- Long-serving Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard bade an underwhelming farewell to Anfield on Saturday as his side lost 3-1 to Crystal Palace in his final home game for the club.
After almost 17 years of service, 709 appearances, 185 goals and 10 trophies, the 34-year-old midfielder had hoped to sign off on a winning note before joining the Los Angeles Galaxy in July.
But although Adam Lallana put Liverpool ahead, goals from Jason Puncheon and substitutes Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray ruined the script as Palace ended a four-game losing streak and claimed a first league win at Anfield since 1991.
The defeat ended Liverpool’s slim mathematical hope of Champions League qualification ahead of their final game at Stoke City, but that was of minor concern on a day that belonged to their beloved, home-grown captain.
Several former Liverpool greats were among the 44,673 people in attendance, as well as ex-manager Gerard Houllier, who handed an 18-year-old Gerrard his debut as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers in November 1998.
Players from both sides formed a guard of honour as Gerrard took to the pitch accompanied by his daughters Lourdes, Lexie and Lilly-Ella, while fans in the Kop and Centenary Stand formed mosaics in his honour.
Predictably, with Liverpool realistically unable to qualify for the Champions League and Palace long safe from relegation, the sense of occasion diminished the moment the match began.
Palace’s fans, meanwhile, seized an opportunity to remind the man of the hour of the only title to have eluded him during his distinguished Anfield career, chanting: “Have you ever seen Gerrard win the league?”
– Chances for Gerrard –
It was not the cue for Liverpool to take control, however, with Joe Ledley, Yannick Bolasie and Lee Chung-yong all squandering chances for Palace, while Simon Mignolet got down well to parry a deflected shot from Puncheon.
Shortly before half-time Puncheon equalised, whipping a fine 20-yard free-kick into the bottom-right corner after Emre Can had been booked for felling Bolasie.
Jordon Ibe, twice, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson shot wide for Liverpool early in the second half, only for Zaha to give Palace the lead on the hour.
A matter of seconds after replacing Lee, the former Manchester United winger ghosted in at the back post to sweep home a low cross from Bolasie, despite appearing to be offside.
Gerrard had scored in his previous two games and with manager Brendan Rodgers moving him further forward, he had chances to equalise, testing Hennessey with a low shot and curling a free-kick over the bar.
But after Bolasie had hit the bar, Palace won a penalty despite Lucas Leiva’s trip on Zaha occurring outside the box and although Mignolet parried Murray’s spot-kick, he scored at the second attempt.