Liverpool held 1-1 by Chelsea, effectively ending CL hopes
LONDON (AP) — After years of abuse from Chelsea fans, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was not appreciative of one final gesture of goodwill — an ovation from fans throughout Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Not when Gerrard was mercilessly taunted throughout the 1-1 draw over the slip against Chelsea a year ago that contributed to his hopes of a first Premier League title ending. And especially not on a day when Chelsea continued its Premier League title celebrations and Liverpool faced up to missing out on the Champions League next season.
“I think Chelsea fans have showed respect for me for a couple of seconds but they have slaughtered me all game,” Gerrard said of the applause as he was substituted in the second half, before adding acerbically: “It was nice of them to turn up for once today.”
Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho responded: “The negative song only shows respect.”
Gerrard had already felt uncomfortable being part of the guard of honor Liverpool for Chelsea’s players before Sunday’s match in keeping with the tradition afforded to newly-crowned champions.
“It’s not nice when you’re doing it for other people,” said Gerrard, who joins the Los Angeles Galaxy next month after an entire career at Liverpool.
The only bright spot for the 34-year-old midfielder on Sunday was nodding in the equalizer from Jordan Henderson’s free kick before halftime, canceling out Chelsea captain John Terry’s fifth-minute header.
But only a win would have kept alive any realistic hope of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification. Despite a brighter second half from Liverpool against a team already in the midst of its title celebrations, the visitors couldn’t conjure a winner.
″(Gerrard) has taken a lot of stick here, but I think the Chelsea supporters knew deep down it’s only because he’s a superstar player — they showed great appreciation for him,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. “He’s a player that makes the big contributions when needed. I’ve said before he’s irreplaceable but we need to find the solutions, one way or the other.”
Liverpool principal owner John Henry has to try to strengthen its squad in the summer transfer window without the attraction of the Champions League at Anfield next season.
Gerrard said it’s important “the owners dig deep and try to help Brendan and the lads out, try and make some additions and try to improve.”
Liverpool second-place finish last season had seen its five-year Champions League exile end but Rodgers’ side exited in the group stage in December. Now Liverpool will have to settle for fifth place and the grueling, less lucrative Europa League.
Liverpool is six points from the top four with two games remaining and fourth-place Manchester United has a far superior goal difference.
“We sit in fifth place and that’s probably where we’re at,” Rodgers said. “It would have been (challenging summer) whether we were in (the Champions League) or not. We know we need to strengthen the squad, and hopefully we can do that.”
Chelsea, though, is just counting down to its final game of the season in two weeks against Sunderland when it can finally collect the Premier League trophy for the first time since 2010.
Rob Harris can be followed at www.titter.com/RobHarris