Steven Gerrard gets fitting farewell as Liverpool legend departs Anfield for the final time

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LIVERPOOL — “Steve Gerrard, Gerrard. He’ll pass the ball 40-yards. He’s big and he’s f***ing hard. Steve Gerrard, Gerrard.”

As Steven Gerrard walked out onto the Anfield pitch for the final time with his daughters holding his hands through a guard of honor from the playing and coaching staffs of both Liverpool and Crystal Palace, that famous song sung to the tune of “Que Sera, Sera” thundered around the terraces. Serenaded by Liverpool’s faithful, mosaics simply stating “Captain” filled the Centenary Stand, plus “SG” and the number eight was emblazoned across the Kop along with a number of banners depicting Gerrard’s greatest moments in a Liverpool shirt over the years.

[ VIDEO: Reliving Gerrard’s farewell ]

It was a sight to behold and a fitting farewell to perhaps the greatest player in Liverpool’s history, as Gerrard addressed the fans after the game.

“I am absolutely devastated I am never going to play in front of these supporters again,” Gerrard reflected. “The moment you play for the first time for Liverpool is an absolute dream come true and anything else after that is a bonus for me… Before the tears come, I’d like to thank the fans. These supporters here stand out more than any. I’ve played in front of most supporters around the world, but you are the best.”

On Saturday, the day of his final game for Liverpool at Anfield, there was a buzz in and around the stadium as banners and scarves saluting Gerrard lined the streets. All round the city people were wearing Liverpool shirts with Gerrard and his famous number eight on the back. The sense of occasion was strong in a stadium which has seen so many great moments over the years. The overall mood was one of celebration but it was also somber as Liverpool’s leading man for nearly two decades would never maraud around these parts in a red shirt again.

[ VIDEO: Gerrard says goodbye to Anfield ]

source: AP
Gerrard kisses his daughters ahead of the game against Palace at Anfield.

Following all of the rigmarole and procession of Saturday’s match, Gerrard looked emotionally drained during the game and the occasion seemed to weigh heavy on him. When Adam Lallana gave Liverpool the lead in the 26th minute the first person he ran to was Gerrard. The joy on Lallana’s face said it all, Liverpool’s players wanted to send Gerrard off in the best way possible but they couldn’t manage it. In the 64th minute he curled a shot towards the bottom corner which lacked the desired pace to beat Wayne Hennesey. Gerrard was moved into an advanced midfield position late in the game by Brendan Rodgers but despite a few surging runs — which were cheered on by home fans screaming “go on lad!” — there wasn’t going to be a fairytale ending to his Anfield career as Liverpool lost 3-1 to Palace but his name was sung loud and proud in the final minutes of the match.

[ RELATED: Rodgers, Pardew salute Gerrard ]

The hometown hero has carried the weight of expectation squarely on his shoulders for the majority of his 17 years as a professional at Liverpool. Gerrard, 34, has been with the Reds since the age of nine and on Saturday his emotional farewell sparked scenes of celebration and sadness around one of world soccer’s most hallowed stadiums.

Gerrard has chosen to move to the United States of America and start a new life with the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer. Many feel that he should have remained at Liverpool for another one or two seasons and then retired but Gerrard has made his decision and the U.S. awaits this summer.

On the surface, the decision to leave Liverpool in his mid-30s to move abroad for the first time in his career seems like a strange one but the fact of the matter is, Gerrard has spent his entire life in Liverpool. His childhood, adolescence and adult life has been consumed by one thing: Liverpool Football Club. Born and raised just 6.5 miles from Anfield, Gerrard has admitted that his entire life all he ever wanted to do was play for Liverpool. That hunger and drive saw him break into the first team as a teenager in 1998 and he has remained their ever since.

source: Getty Images
Liverpool v Crystal Palace – Premier League

As he strode around Anfield at the end of the game and applauded every stand and looked up to the vast rafters of the Kop wistfully, Gerrard’s bond with the fans seems unbreakable. That’s because it is. He’s one of them. Through the good times and the bad. When Liverpool fans mourned the 96 fans lost in the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, Gerrard’s family mourned more than most. Gerrard’s younger cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest victim of the Hillsborough disaster and Gerrard ended his 2006 autobiography with the simple yet powerful sentence: “I play for Jon-Paul.”

Gerrard also explained that the death of his cousin in the greatest soccer tragedy in English history had a huge impact on his career. “It was difficult knowing one of your cousins had lost his life,” Gerrard said. “Seeing his family’s reaction drove me on to become the player I am today.”

Liverpool and Gerrard go hand in hand. Like Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers. Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees. One of the greatest, most successful and prestigious clubs in the world has lent on a local lad for inspiration for nearly two decades but now, reluctantly, it’s time move on. He had chances to leave Liverpool for more trophies and success as Chelsea, Real Madrid and others came calling but each and every time Gerrard refrained from walking out on his club, his people, and instead stuck around to drag them to success time and time again. He epitomizes the one-club man and in modern day soccer, he may be one of the last to dedicate himself to Liverpool the way he has. The likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were legendary figures at Manchester United but both weren’t treated like this in their final home matches for United.

Before and after the game another song was belted out to signify Gerrard’s stature among Liverpool’s loyal supporters.

“Steven Gerrard is our captain. Steven Gerrard is a Red. Steven Gerrard plays for Liverpool. Scouser born and bred.”

From his memorable goal and performance in the incredible UEFA Champions League final win of 2005 to his stunning last-gasp goal in the 2006 FA Cup final, Gerrard dragged Liverpool out of trouble time and time again. Despite captaining England at two World Cups and representing the Three Lions 114 times, he never really had the same influence as he did with the Reds.

Gerrard’s hometown club and the people in it has always seemed to bring out the best in him.

The City of Liverpool (the red half, anyway) has embraced ‘Stevie G’ since day one and his image as the local lad come good resonated with every Liverpool fan and most soccer fans around the world. Everybody wants to see one of their own succeed and Gerrard has certainly done that, and more, after winning 11 trophies with Liverpool and captaining the club for the last 12 years. His humble demeanor has remained throughout his career and although sour looks and crunching tackles have kept his hard-man status on the field intact — he even left room for a few of those late in the game on Saturday — Gerrard’s personality off it reflects his hometown. Determined. Full of grit. And hard as nails.

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Gerrard was honored by the fans at Anfield.

Gerrard was heavy-hearted as he was given a standing ovation by the 44,000-plus fans at Anfield on Saturday. As he walked across the hallowed turf for one final time as a Liverpool player and down the tunnel, it was a real lump in the throat moment as grown men wept in the stands. For fans of a certain age, they will have grown up wanting to replicate Gerrard’s success. They will have worn the No. 8 jersey because Gerrard did. And they will have wanted to play soccer because Gerrard did. He was, and will be for quite some time, an inspiration to millions around the world. His loyalty, dedication and professionalism were the benchmarks of one the greatest careers the PL has ever seen.

Some legendary players have called Anfield home over the years. Kenny Dalglish. Graeme Souness. Ian Rush. Phil Neal. Kevin Keegan. Years from now — and even over the past few years it has started happening — Gerrard’s name will be mentioned in the same breath as those greats. Nobody knows what the future may bring, if Gerrard may return to the Reds as a manger one day or in another capacity, but his name will forever be inextricably linked with Liverpool Football Club.

For the local lad who grew up supporting Liverpool and captained them for most of his career, Gerrard may have said goodbye to Anfield as a player but his heart will always remain with his boyhood club. And every fan of his boyhood club will forever have memories of Gerrard’s greatness etched into their own hearts.

He inspired. He conquered. Gerrard lived for Liverpool Football Club and despite his farewell on Saturday, his heart will always remain at Anfield.

UEL, LIVE — Man Utd, Wolves lineups out; Arsenal leads Eintracht

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The Europa League group stage begins play on Thursday, with Arsenal in Germany to face Eintracht Frankfurt.

A younger Arsenal is leading on a deflected shot from Man of the Match candidate Joe Willock.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Manchester United and Wolves set to kick-off their respective matches against Astana and Braga at 3 p.m. ET.

Lineups are out for both sides. United will be very young against Kazakh side Astana ahead of a Sunday visit to West Ham United, while Wolves start Raul Jimenez and Patrick Cutrone up top in Portugal versus Braga.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow

Top Premier League storylines: Week 6

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Of the seven Premier League sides to handle midweek Europeans challenges, only two face-off and that predictably is the hallmark of the weekend in England.

[ MORE: Silva to Inter Miami? ]

What else is cooking? Smell the aromas of the weekend ahead, below.


How will Frank Lampard attack Liverpool?

  • Chelsea v. Liverpool, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The Blues’ 5-2 defeat at Wolves last week did not help spin a win over Valencia in the Champions League, and Frank Lampard’s next chance to make a statement comes against a team that is perfect in PL play and finds itself licking its wounds from a subpar performance at Napoli. Can a very fresh Christian Pulisic make the difference for Chelsea? Will Callum Hudson-Odoi take the positive vibes from his new contract and solid PL2 appearance into the fray?


Will Fernandinho help stabilize Man City against improving Watford?

  • Man City v. Watford, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

City went to Ukraine and blanked Shakhtar Donetsk with Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho at center back, and the Brazilian center midfielder says he’s been preparing for his possibility for some time. If Watford looks anything like it looked in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal, we could see a very decent test for City’s back line.


Weary Spurs get top-half test from Leicester City

  • Leicester City v. Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Inconsistent Tottenham meets a Leicester City side with Top Six ambitions, licking its wounds from a 1-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford which probably deserved a point. Spurs aren’t feeling great following another blown 2-0 lead in a big spot away from home. How will they react in Leicester?


Will Solskjaer’s midweek rest risk reap rewards on Sunday?

  • West Ham United v. Manchester United, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to hand heavy minutes to youngsters and second-choice players against Kazakh side Astana on Thursday at Old Trafford. Will that pay off when trying to stop Sebastien Haller, Felipe Anderson, and Manuel Pellegrini‘s Irons on Sunday morning?


Early season six-pointer at St. James’ Park

  • Newcastle United v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Look, it’s Week Six and normally we’d say anything can happen in a Premier League season, but let’s be reasonable: If you’re looking at the teams for Newcastle and Brighton, this result will matter as many as any down the stretch in determining Premier League status for 2019/20.

Hudson-Odoi signs new deal with Chelsea

Photo by Clive Howes - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images
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Man, is Bayern Munich gonna feel like it wasted its time.

Chelsea starlet Callum Hudson-Odoi has re-upped with the Premier League side to the tune of five more years, inking a deal through at least the 2023-24 season.

[ MORE: Silva to Inter Miami? ]

Hudson-Odoi, 18, made his breakthrough with Chelsea last season and was heavily recruited by the German giants.

He joins Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic as young wingers committed to the club for the long-term, but is still away from the Blues first team after an achilles tear late last season. He registered an assist in 61 minutes for Chelsea’s PL2 side last week.

Here’s manager Frank Lampard, via ChelseaFC.com:

“I have seen Callum come through and he’s a fantastic talent. He is going to be central for us on the pitch and that is the opportunity in front of him now. There are things as a young player that he will want to improve but he can be central to this team and for England. I want to work with him, I want to drive him forward and I want to improve him as a player.”

Hudson-Odoi has five goals and five assists in 28 appearances for the Blues and isn’t 19 until November.

American eyes can’t help but wonder how this will affect Christian Pulisic, himself a big investment for Chelsea. One thing’s for sure: Chelsea has depth on the wings.

Report: Man City’s David Silva in ‘likely’ Inter Miami move

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Arguably the greatest player in Manchester City history could become the first star player of Inter Miami.

That’s the story coming out of England, where The Independent reports that David Silva will “likely” join Inter Miami CF for its inaugural MLS run in 2020.

It’s well-known that Silva is leaving Man City this summer after one last-go at his first UEFA Champions League title.

[ MORE: Man City bests Shakhtar ]

David Beckham has been recruiting some of the top names in the game, and has been linked with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Silva, 33, checks all the boxes. The Spanish star won two EUROs and a World Cup, and is still playing at a very high level. He has five assists in six matches for City this season.

If healthy, it would be foolish to expect anything but dominance out of Silva, though beware the think pieces out there about how he “might find it tougher than he thinks.” We’re talking about a world beater who posted 10 goals and 14 assists for City last season.

Even at his age, he’d carry one of the top resumes of any player to join Major League Soccer (Beckham, Steven Gerrard, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic would like a word).

He has 71 goals and 134 assists in 402 matches for City, and would eventually line up against fellow City Football Group club NYCFC.