Gerrard is still the Don

LONDON - Steven Gerrard’s Long Goodbye started in style and all at Liverpool will hope that it climaxes back in London with an emotional farewell on his 35th birthday – the day of the FA Cup final.

In his first game since announcing that he would be leaving the club at the end of this season, Gerrard completed a familiar rescue act, scoring twice to steer his side into the fourth round of the FA Cup where they play Emile Heskey and Bolton Wanderers.

Liverpool’s defence was again occasionally frail, and Gerrard himself had to clear off the line.

Liverpool needed their captain and talisman to stand tall. AFC Wimbledon were vibrant at times, well organised by Neal Ardley, making light of their League Two status as they attacked and attacked, exposing the flaws in Brendan Rodgers’s defence.

Gerrard opened the scoring with a diving header but the hosts responded well, and the excellence of their football was rewarded when Adebayo Akinfenwa pounced at a corner and equalised.

How fitting. Akinfenwa, a passionate Liverpool fan, was looking forward to meeting Gerrard, to thank him for everything he had done for the club, to get his shirt, which he duly did (signed on the No 8).

But Gerrard rescued his team once again with a second-half free-kick, intensifying the debate over whether he is leaving too soon. Assuming that Gerrard is California dreamin’, LA Galaxy’s gain is Liverpool’s loss.

Gerrard’s reverie also takes in Wembley. “It’s going to be my last time [in the FA Cup], so I want to make the most of it and go all the way,’’ Gerrard told BT Sport.

“That’s what dreams are made of and hopefully that will be the case. Bolton at home in the next round will be another difficult test, I know Neil Lennon and I know he’ll set up his team so they are difficult to beat.

“I always enjoy the FA Cup, I grew up loving the competition. If I wasn’t here playing for this team I’d probably be in the stands watching. I know what it means to every single supporter, that’s why I always try and give it my best. Whether I’m playing AC Milan in the Champions League or Wimbledon I’m always going to give it my best.”

It had to be Gerrard seizing the headlines, following the huge debate over whether he still had a significant role to play in Liverpool’s future. Having started on the bench at Real Madrid, Gerrard clearly knew that he was not a central part of Rodgers’s plans, leading to his announcement that he was leaving for MLS. – Telegraph

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