Odds are Liverpool still finish behind Manchester United and miss out on the last Champions League spot. But moments like Steven Gerrard delivered for his club in a 2-1 win over QPR bring them very close to actually achieving what seemed impossible not too long ago.
With a visit to Stamford Bridge among their remaining matches, it’s hard to see Liverpool actually making up the four point margin between them and their greatest rivals, a club they’ve lost two twice this season. But Manchester United aren’t the sturdiest of teams this season, and have now lost three consecutive matches, looking in somewhat of shambles in every aspect.
The story this afternoon at Anfield was Steven Gerrard. His preview to the last match at his home stadium. Liverpool looked like a team that was once again going to find it very difficult to score, even against a weak opponent like QPR. Philippe Coutinho delivered his usual magic, this time actually putting it in the net. And yet, just like in a lot of other moments this season, a defensive mistake allowed Leroy Fer (73rd minute) to complicate things.
In comes Gerrard, who got a rare start, and almost made Brendan Rodgers regret it. Forget his mediocre (at best) ability in the middle of the park, trying to do things he physically can’t anymore. There was the penalty miss, something that hardly ever happens to him. Gerrard’s finale for Liverpool has been very far from pleasing, but this seemed to be a new low in a string of happenings and events that go back to his slip against Chelsea from last season.
But then came the ending. A Coutinho curling corner, no one from Liverpool moves towards the goal. No one except Gerrard. Three players surround him, but a player who is less than 30 days away from 35th birthday, who seems to be declining physically with every match that goes by, soared in the air for a winning header, maybe for the final time in a Liverpool jersey.
Who knows, maybe this is a goal that eventually puts Liverpool in the Champions League. It got them a lot closer to playing in Europe, although the Europa League for English clubs has never been a priority. Many of them prefer to simply skip the European experience altogether if that’s the case. But Liverpool are trying to build something and create some consistency of contention and relative success. This Gerrard goal didn’t just redeem him from a penalty miss. It puts the club a lot closer to finishing with another European berth.