Saturday, 5 December 2009

Ten of his best on a landmark day for Liverpool FC's Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard Liverpool 2008/09

THE BOY'S TON WELL | Gerrard cracks in his 100th goal for the Reds

FROM Ironside Road to Istanbul, Steven Gerrard has come along way in his 11 years as a Liverpool player.

The Anfield skipper will make his 500th appearance for the Reds today when he leads out Liverpool at Ewood Park for the clash with Blackburn - the 13th player to reach that milestone in the club's history.

To put the achievement into perspective, by 5pm tonight, Gerrard will be just 15 appearances short of matching Kenny's Dalglish's record for the Reds.

Not bad for a little lad from the Bluebell estate in Huyton.

My early memories of Gerrard include his substitute appearance against Everton in the Anfield derby in 1999.

After the game, which Liverpool won 3-2, everyone was talking about Robbie Fowler's infamous line-sniffing celebration in front of the Everton fans.

But the young Gerrard, replacing Veggard Heggem to play right back, played his part in the win, clearing two off the line, one from Kevin Campbell and one from Danny Cadamarteri.

Perhaps more telling, he behaved more like a fan than a player - passionately clenching his fist and screwing up his face in delight after making the crucial second clearance.

Then, later that year, came Gerrard's first goal for the Reds. Sheffield Wednesday were the victims - and it was no ordinary strike either. Picking the ball up just outside the centre circle, Gerrard, now in a midfield role, drove forward, beating one defender and flatfooting another with a superb dummy, before firing an accurate drive into the bottom corner in front of the Anfield Road.

Since then, there have been many more magic moments from Gerrard - including 124 goals. I've tried to pick my top ten which, as you can imagine is no easy task. So rather than do hours of research, I've gone for the ones that stick in my mind, often for importance just as much as technique. 

1. Olympiakos, Champions League Group Stage
Anfield, December 2004

Rivaldo's goal left the Reds needing three goals to go through to the next stage. Florent Sinama Pongolle and Neil Mellor led the comeback with a goal apiece and it was Mellor who teed up Gerrard in the 86th minute. Gerrard allowed Mellor's cushioned header to drop across his body before lashing the ball into the corner right off his laces to cap a dramatic comeback that left yours truly sat speechless on the Kop at the final whistle. The fact Bluenose Andy Gray had to change his underwear was just an added bonus...Oh you beauty, what a hit son, what a hit...

2. AC Milan, Champions League Final
Ataturk Stadium, Istanbul, May 2005

Taken out of context, Gerrard's looping header is far from the most pleasing goal on the eye. But the 54th-minute goal sowed the seed of doubt in the minds of AC Milan and, crucially, gave Liverpool - who had been trailing 3-0 at half time, the belief to go on and complete the most dramatic comeback  in football history.

Steven Gerrard:Most Crucial Goal of His Career - The best video clips are here

3. West Ham United, FA Cup Final
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, May 2006

Trailing 3-2 to the Hammers with 90 minutes on the clock, it looked for the all the world that the FA Cup was headed for Upton Park. But  Gerrard, who had been suffering with cramp, had other ideas, slamming in an unstoppable 30-yard strike to level the scores.
4. Manchester United, Premier League
Anfield, March 2001

It's always nice to beat the Mancs, and it's even better if it's done in some style. Robbie Fowler cushioned a pass to Gerrard and Fabien Barthez has no chance as Gerrard drove forward and lashed the ball home from 25 yards past the bemused French keeper. Fowler later got on the scoresheet himself as the Reds chalked up a satisfying 2-0 win.

5. Marseille, Champions League
Stade Velodrome, September 2008

This goal just underlined Gerrard's ability - few players in the world could have managed this strike. The ball was almost under his feet as he hit it, but he managed to instinctively pull of a perfect, almost golf-like shot which curled into the far corner past the keeper, who didn't even bother to move. Technically brilliant.

6. Arsenal, Premier League
Anfield, December 2000

A trademark Gerrard strike in the 11th minute sent Liverpool on their way to a 4-0 win over the Gunners. Still only 20, Gerrard won the midfield battle that day against Patrick Viera. And it was the Frenchman who failed to clear convincingly, allowing Gerrard to belt in a typically power-packed finish from 20-yards.

7. Everton, Premier League
Goodison Park, September 2001

The 'Huyton Hammer' was at it again, and this time in a Goodison derby. The Blues have always singled out Steven for stick so, after skinning Gary Naysmith and blasting a superb angled finish, the reaction of the shaven-headed midfielder is no surprise.

8. Aston Villa, Premier League
Villa Park, August 2007

Just like  at Wembley against West Ham, this was another Roy of the Rovers moment for Gerrard. It was the first game of the season and, like any fans, Liverpool supporters had high hopes of success. A draw away from home wouldn't have been a bad result - but thanks to Gerrard's pinpoint free kick in the 87th minute the Reds took all three.

9. Middlesbrough, Premier League
Anfield, 2004-05

Just another long-ranger from Gerrard - gets boring, doesn't it? As if. This time he pulls down a ball from John Arne Riise, 30-odd yards from goal and volleys it home.

10. Southampton, Premier League
Anfield,  January 2001

Picking the ball up miles from goal Gerrard shifted the ball on to his right and shot. Not even right in the corner this one, but it didn't have to be. Gerrard generated so much power for this shot from distance, Paul Jones had no chance as it crashed in off the bar.



So there you have it, agree, disagree? Let me know your choices. To end the piece, I'd just like to say, no-one's perfect, not even Gerrard...