Demons everywhere with this one.
April 27th2014 is the chilling JFK moment of Liverpool FC’s modern era.
We all remember where we were when Demba Ba slotted past Simon Mignolet in front of the Kop after that “slip”, the cruellest happenstance that robbed Steven Gerrard of his ultimate glory. The prodigious young lad who inspired the return of the European Cup to Anfield; the mature but careworn legend, who cast off all his complex insecurities and restrictions of an ailing body, to lead the Reds to that first title in a quarter of a century.
Still can’t believe it didn’t happen.
Still can’t fathom the sheer malice with which the dream died.
Still can’t shake those images – of the time wasting; water bottles being lobbed on to the pitch, Suarez shooting straight at Schwarzer, Fernando Torres complicit in the denouement, Mourinho marauding down that touchline like a classless pig.
Do you believe in Karma? What goes around comes around.
After that awful Anfield afternoon, the pub was the only sanctuary. The misery only deepened when Manchester City won at Crystal Palace. Then, death by a thousand cuts as we crumbled at Selhurst Park and City snuffed out the last flickers of hope with victory at Goodison and two Etihad wins over Aston Villa and West Ham.
This Sunday, Chelsea are back cast once more as potential spoilsports.
This time though, it’s City who have it all to lose. By spooky symmetry they again travel to Palace while we entertain Maurizio Sarri’s men.
We’re in City’s heads already – by virtue of a relentless pursuit through autumn and winter and latterly, James Milner’s Fulham pen, that mad Spurs own goal, and Mo Salah’s divine intervention at Southampton.
Crucially, City play first on Sunday knowing they have to win. I wouldn’t fancy that one iota.
We can flip our demons into omens. If the portents of the last few weeks, indeed the whole season, aren’t enough for you, try this. Gerrard’s gone. His legend arguably grows with each passing year, the contemporary yardstick by which all the current crop are measured. None more so than Jordan Henderson, his successor as captain. Henderson was absent – suspended after a red card at the death against City – when Chelsea ruined everything last time. Now, it is he, rejuvenated of late in the advanced position in which he excelled in 2014, who stands to achieve what was denied to Gerrard.
So, the only footballer who started the 2014 game who plays on Sunday is Salah, so emphatically now Liverpool’s Mo Salah that it seems almost inconceivable he wore Chelsea blue that day. More coincidences abound. Mignolet aside, the only Liverpool player still knocking around is Daniel Sturridge, another former Chelsea man. His last league goal for Liverpool – his 50thin Red – was the Stamford Bridge stunner which earned a crucial point back in September.
Mohamed Salah, la 🇪🇬👑
50 league goals in 69 games 👏pic.twitter.com/XRPETkUqIK
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) April 11, 2019
Sturridge is another who could collect a medal that is five years overdue, despite having had a fraction of the impact he had alongside Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling – obviously now of City – under Brendan Rodgers. What price Sturridge coming off the bench and getting a dramatic late winner – beating Salah to 51 league goals – just for old times’ sake? I honestly wouldn’t rule it out. Some funny things have happened at Anfield this season, as though a witch doctor has been added to Jurgen Klopp’s ranks.
Liverpool will obviously beware the threat of Eden Hazard, a serial performer against the Reds. The Belgian imp is enough to put the fear of God into any Liverpudlian and already has an Anfield winner to his name this season in the Carabao Cup. Chelsea, despite their flaky away record, are replete with good players; Kepa in goal, David Luiz, Ngolo Kante and Jorginho in the middle and Gonzalo Higuain up top. They’re also unbeaten at Anfield since May 2012. It’s more than enough to have us on our mettle.
We owe them one. We owe them for 2014. Time to ram that bloody Gerrard song down their throats once and for all. This Sunday could be epic; so many themes collide to suggest it’s the day of days. Roy of the Palace to double Man City first, then on to Anfield to exorcise the biggest title ghost.
*Odds are subject to change