This was Steven Gerrard’s final North West Derby, and with his team down 1-0 to Manchester United at Anfield, his halftime introduction had to potential to sway the match back in Liverpool’s favor. Instead, moments after kickoff, the 34-year-old was walking back down the tunnel, having been sent off 48 seconds into his final appearance against Liverpool’s long-time rivals.
The decision came after a sliding challenge from United’s Ander Herrera, who was shown yellow from his attempt to take the ball off Gerrard. As the Spaniard slid just in front of a dodging Gerrard, the Liverpool captain came down with his left foot on Herrera’s lower leg. Before breaking a sweat, Gerrard had sent Martin Atkinson to his front pocket.
It was the second questionable challenge Gerrard was involved in. The first happened moments earlier with another Spaniard, Juan Mata, who saw Gerrard slide through him as he tried to play the ball. With Liverpool consciously playing through their newly introduced registra, United’s midfielders were rushing to apply pressure. Though Gerrard played a couple of nice cross field balls, he reacted poorly to the Spaniards’ challenges.
Even if Liverpool wasn’t chasing a goal, it would have been a ridiculous decision from Gerrard. Though loyal fans will jump to the star’s defense, challenges like Herrera’s happen game in, game out without players being stepped on. Whether that step was deliberate, only Gerrard knows, but it certainly could have been avoided. Now, with Manchester United having added a second goal, a 10-man Liverpool seems destined for a crucial loss.