Gerrard’s Liverpool highs and lows ahead of Anfield return as Aston Villa boss

Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard returns to Liverpool for the first time since departing Anfield in 2015.

From his developing years in the Reds youth system to his final ever match for the Merseysiders, Gerrard made 713 senior appearances between 1998 and 2015.

He entrenched himself as one of the Premier League’s greatest ever players, winning the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, three League Cups, two FA Cups, and two UEFA Supercups at Anfield.

However, the Liverpool legend will be in the opposition dugout as his inform Villa side take on Jurgen Klopp’s relentless Reds at Anfield.

Ahead of Gerrard’s emotional return, Daily Star sport considers his highs and lows of his 19-year-affiliation with Liverpool.

The Highs

2001 UEFA Cup final

As the Reds came into the 2001 UEFA Cup Final against Deportivo Alaves, Gerard Houlier’s side had already won the League Cup and the FA Cup.

Gerrard’s 20th minute strike, shortly after Markus Babbel’s fourth minute header, doubled their lead against the La Liga side and appeared to put them on course to an easy win.

Alaves hit back, before Michael Owen made it 3-1 before half-time, however, the Spaniards would not retreat as they soon pegged the score back to 3-3 in the second half.

The Reds regained the lead once again to make it 4-3, but Alaves forced extra time with another equaliser in the dying minutes.

However, a last minute own goal from Delfi Geli secured Liverpool’s the treble for the Reds, and a first European title for Gerrard.

Liverpool captaincy

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At the age of just 23-year-old, Gerrard was given the captain’s armband in the 2003-04 season.

He had been a key player for the Reds since making his Liverpool debut in the 1998 season.

It was a wonderful moment for the imperious midfielder, who had progressed through all of the youth teams to become the main man at Anfield.

He went on to captain the Reds in 368 Premier League games over the course of eleven seasons.

And while that illusive Premier League title eluded the midfielder, he is still considered as one of the division’s greatest ever midfielders.

Winner against Olympiacos

It may not have been the match which took them to the title, but Liverpool’s incredible 3-1 victory against Olympiacos in their final group match was the catalyst for their sensational Champions League triumph in 2005.

Liverpool needed a victory by a two-goal margin to progress into the knockout stages of the Champions League and looked to be in big trouble when the Greek giants took the lead through Brazil legend Rivaldo.

Florent Sinama Pongolie and Neil Mellor put Liverpool ahead on the night, but they still seemed destined for a premature exit.

However, Mellor flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Gerrard, and the Englishman unleashed a thunderous half volley which burst into the corner of the net.

It conjured the spirit and never say die attitude, culminating with one very special night in Turkey.

Miracle of Istanbul

The Miracle of Istanbul needs no introduction as Liverpool’s Champions League triumph was one of the greatest matches in the history of both the club and the illustrious competition.

Goals from Paolo Maldini and a brace from Hernan Crespo looked to have given AC Milan an unassailable 3-0 lead going into half-time.

However, Gerrard took the game by the scruff of the neck, by scoring a sensational header, before Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso scored within minutes of each other to put the Reds back onto level terms.

Heroics from Jerzy Dudek in the resultant penalty shootout meant Gerrard did not need to take a spot-kick, as the Polish shot-stopper saved from Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko to win the Reds’ first Champions League title in 21 years.

2006 FA Cup Final

When it came to major finals, Liverpool very rarely made things easy for themselves, but they always seemed to finish on the winning side.

And they came back from the dead in the 2006 FA Cup final against West Ham United. An own goal from Jamie Carragher and a bundled finish from Dean Ashton saw the Hammers take a 2-0 lead, before Djibril Cisse halved the deficit.

Gerrard lashed home a equaliser in the second half, before the East Londoners took the lead via a fortunate goal from Paul Konchesky.

However, in the dying seconds, Gerrard unleashed a sensational 35-yard half volley to force extra time.

And just as they did in Istanbul, Liverpool went on to win via a penalty shootout, to the heart break of the Hammers.

The Lows

Drama amid Chelsea interest

Barely months had passed since ‘The Miracle of Istanbul’ before news of Gerrard moving to Chelsea began to emanate.

Stories stating he had rejected a £100,000 per-week contract at Anfield to force through a move to the Blues devastated and angered Liverpool fans, who even took to the streets, burning shirts with his name on the back.

Liverpool’s chief executive at the time Rick Parry even publicly stated: "Now we have to move on. We have done our best, but he has made it clear he wants to go and I think it looks pretty final."

However, the very next day, Gerrard performed a spectacular U-turn and signed a new four-year contract with the Reds to the relief and delight of the Liverpool fan base.

2007 Champions League final

Gerrard scored three goals and contributed three assists as Liverpool reached their second Champions League final in three seasons.

And in what appeared to be a remarkable stroke of fate, Liverpool were to face AC Milan in the final once again.

The Italian giants took the lead via a deflected strike from Filippo Inzaghi in what was an extremely tight match.

Inzaghi went on to double the Rossoneri’s lead in the 82nd minute, and while Dirk Kuyt halved the deficit in the 89th minute to force a nervy finish, Milan never looked likely to squander their lead.

It was a chastening blow for Liverpool, who did not reach the Champions League final for another ten years.

2005 League Cup final

Liverpool dominated the early stages of the 2005 Carling Cup final against fierce rivals Chelsea.

At the time, the Reds and the Blues developed a huge rivalry, after facing off against each other in many of the cup competitions, as well as the Premier League.

John Arne Riise scored after one minute to put Liverpool in the driving seat, and the Merseysiders seemed to have the edge over Mourinho’s side.

However, disaster struck in the 79th minute, as Gerrard scored an unfortunate own goal to level the contest and trigger extra time.

Chelsea found another gear in the second half as goals from Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman sealed a 3-2 victory for the Blues.

The slip

He may be one of the Premier League’s greatest ever defenders, but Gerrard will struggle to live this memory down.

Victory against Chelsea in front of a raucous Anfield crowd would have won Liverpool’s first ever Premier League title in the 2013/14 season.

And the Red ribbons were almost being added to the trophy as Mourinho deployed a weakened side, as he had one eye on a Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid.

With the contest on a knife edge, a simple pass to Gerrard resulted in the Reds’ captain slipping over and opening a clear route to goal for Demba Ba, who slotted through the legs of Simon Mignolet to give the Blues a lead.

And with the Reds desperately seeking an equaliser, Chelsea broke up the other end of the pitch through Fernando Torres, who squared the ball to Willian to seal a 2-0 away win for the Blues.

Manchester City went on to win the title and Liverpool finished in second place.

Gerrard’s final match

Gerrard’s final match for Liverpool was an always uncomfortable away match against Stoke City.

Unfortunately, his illustrious Liverpool career did not finish on a high, as Stoke absolutely pummelled the Reds.

The Potters relentlessly scored five goals in the first half through a Mame Biram Diouf brace, as well as goals from Jonathan Walters, Steven Nzonzi and Charlie Adam.

While Gerrard did find the net in the second half, his former team-mate Peter Crouch scored Stoke’s sixth goal of the day to rub further salt in the wounds.

Gerrard left the club to sign for LA Galaxy a couple of months later, in what was a nightmare conclusion to his legendary career.

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