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Gerrard Had One Hand On His Coveted Premier League Title, Yet The Liverpool Skipper Bottled His Best Shot At Glory

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Steven Gerrard has dedicated his life in striving for that Premier League title that had eluded him for so long. Liverpool, under the dynamic leadership of Gerrard, had come perilously close to snatching it from United in 2009, but an outright lead at the top with 4 games to go meant that the 2013-14 season represented Gerrard’s and Liverpool’s best chance to break the duck. Nobody wanted it more than Steven Gerrard. Nobody cared more than Steven Gerrard.

The hard work had been done throughout the course of an impeccable season, now it was time to just will his team over the finish line, often the hallmark of some of the great players in the game. Yet, an emotional Steven Gerrard let his emotions do the talking as Liverpool’s sloppiness, inherited from their skipper’s failure to keep his emotions in check, looks set to have cost them a title that looked only theirs a couple of weeks back.

“Listen, this is gone. We go to Norwich, exactly the same. We go together. Come on!”

Steven Gerrard had this to say when he gathered his troops at the final whistle after an emotionally turbulent encounter against title rivals Manchester City, a game which looked to have been swinging City’s way in the 2nd half until Coutinho produced some individual magic assisted by Kompany’s costly error.

Gerrard was quick to dismiss the fact that Liverpool were title contenders, treading very carefully as he had been in the game long enough to know that the job was far from over.

“We need to keep calm. There are still four big games to come,” said the jubilant Liverpool skipper after the 3-2 victory over Manchester City at Anfield. But he couldn’t stop his tears – tears of joy, triumph, exhilaration, or simply hope.

Hope that Liverpool would end their first league title for quarter of a century. Gerrard, in his own admission, endured the longest 90 minutes of his footballing career, and maybe, emotionally atleast, he was drained. It meant the world to him. His rallying call was what Hollywood dramas are made of. If there was any doubt about what a Premier League meant to Liverpool’s son of the soil, Gerrard displayed his battling instincts and underlined the significance of winning his – and the club’s – Holy Grail.

Three weeks later, he sat on his haunches, desolate on the halfway line, as pandemonium broke loose all around him at Selhurst Park. It was Istanbul happening all over again – this time though, Gerrard and co were mere pieces in the jigsaw as Palace rallied from 3 goals down to produce the most stunning of comebacks, a naive manner for Liverpool to squander a title that looked to be in their hands a few days earlier. They earned the right to control their destiny with a series of convincing results, and they blew it away equally convincingly.

Gerrard was well aware that the last four games would be anything but a walk in the park, but he seemed shell-shocked at the turn of events. From having one hand on the Premier League trophy one moment to having it snatched away the other, the realization that his best ever shot at the Premier League crown may have evaporated in the most ridiculous fashion must have been a bitter pill to swallow. The tears were preserved for the long journey back home via the M6. Meanwhile, Gerrard was dragging an utterly disconsolate and tearful Luis Suarez off the pitch after the Uruguayan couldn’t resist lamenting on what they had let slip. He lent a shoulder to the distraught striker, and shooed away the cameras from his immediate space. Talking of slip – okay, I will come to that a little later.

The point is, Liverpool’s fall from grace in the last couple of weeks is even more baffling. Here is a young team which has played beautiful, fearless football throughout the course of the season, taking the bull by the horns, and turning up for the most crunch encounters and slaying teams left, right and center. Next weekend, they barely did enough to close out a narrow 3-2 win at Carrow Road, but the nerves were there for all to see. A bright start from Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez put the visitors two up within the first 10 minutes, but the spark was soon gone as Norwich forged their way back in. Sterling restored the two-goal advantage, yet Liverpool allowed the hosts to ensure a nervy ending as they leaked another goal. Needless to say, the worrying signs were there.

Rodgers’ team could outscore most teams on any given day, yet their defence had the potential to embarrass themselves in key situations. But here, much like at Selhurst Park on Monday night, was a case of nervousness and complacency, of the title being already done and dusted in their hearts, when it was far from finished on the pitch. For Gerrard, it was his emotions getting the better of him.

As if The Kop’s post match celebrations after the City game wasn’t enough indication that they already wrapped up the title in their hearts and minds, the reception the team got at Anfield confirmed the worst fears. A hero’s welcome to a team before the match when it could well have been saved for the full-time whistle, all the legends from Carragher to Rush were there, all expecting Liverpool to all but seal the title against a Chelsea side with one eye on next week’s semi final against Atletico.

“We’re gonna win the league,” The Kop sang as Jose Mourinho sent his well-drilled team to neutralize Liverpool’s tiny zippy players. Mourinho squeezed the gaps between the lines and for all of Liverpool’s bright attacking football, it was Chelsea who stole all three points. For Gerrard, the tears of joy after the triumph over City soon turned into the horrors of slipping on the stroke of half-time and letting Demba Ba in to open the scoring for Chelsea. Champions are often made of grit and determination and the will to drag themselves to the finish line, squeezing out the odd ugly win, but Liverpool’s failure to breach Chelsea’s bus showed that although, the title was already won on Facebook and Twitter, Rodgers’ team may not be ready for it just yet.

Truth be told, on a personal level, Gerrard has barely set a foot wrong in the last few months, driving his team towards that coveted league title, but his failure to rid himself of his emotional demons and inspire his team to the finish line may well haunt him forever. Take all the crucial results that saw this young Liverpool side give themselves a shot at jostling with City and Chelsea in the business end of the season, and each bears a Gerrard mark. Wins at Old Trafford, Upton Park and White Hart Lane, the last-gasp success at Craven Cottage or the vital point against Villa, Gerrard has been ever present for the Reds.

Yet, when he was needed most to see his team through, an emotional Gerrard barely helped Liverpool’s cause. Maybe out of his inability to keep his emotions in check, maybe because of a defence that has taken a fondness to leaking cheap goals, Liverpool, in all probability, have managed to let the title slip when it seemed easier to win. For Steven Gerrard, he may well go down as one of the greatest players to never win a Premier League title.

That doesn’t change the fact that the Holy Grail was there for the taking, and Gerrard bottled it. They had won the league in their hearts. Football, however, is played on the pitch.