The Reds No. 8’s role in the FA Cup final on May 13, 2006 is fondly remembered; such was his impact on the result that it is now collectively known as the Gerrard final.
Liverpool reached the Millennium Stadium by defeating Luton Town, Portsmouth, Man United, Birmingham and Chelsea, scoring 17 goals and conceding just five, as they aimed to add to their UEFA Super Cup triumph earlier in the campaign.
Coming up against a West Ham outfit that had vanquished Norwich, Blackburn, Bolton, Man City—who finished the Premier League season in 15th—and Middlesbrough, Rafa Benitez’s side were strong favourites.
It was a difficult game, however, compounded by Jamie Carragher’s early own goal and a Dean Ashton finish to make it 2-0, with the Reds needing inspiration.
That came in the form of Gerrard, who set up Djibril Cisse’s first-half volley and then powered in one of his own in the 54th minute to restore parity, only for Paul Konchesky’s miss-hit cross to loop over Pepe Reina for 3-2.
Heading into stoppage time with the Hammers in the lead, Liverpool were growing desperate, and a tiring Gerrard drew upon his last reserves to take it to penalties.
His leveller came in the 91st minute and from all of 35 yards, powering it past Shaka Hislop to tee up a shootout that the Reds ultimately won 3-1.
Liverpool 3-3 West Ham (3-1 on pens)
FA Cup Final, Millennium Stadium
May 13, 2006
Goals: Cisse 32′, Gerrard 54′, 90+1′; Carragher OG 21′, Ashton 28′, Konchesky 64′
It is rightly known as the Gerrard final, but there are a number of aspects that go unsung as a result, from both a Liverpool and West Ham perspective.
The performance of Yossi Benayoun should not be overlooked, for example, with the Israeli bright and effective in his midfield role for West Ham, a year prior to his switch to Merseyside.
Cisse’s finish to reduce the deficit in the first half was of the highest quality, latching onto Gerrard’s weighted pass into the box and hammering home with his right.
And the dichotomy of celebrations in the shootout as Teddy Sheringham—the ex-United striker, now 40—geed up the crowd following his successful spot-kick, only for Gerrard to follow up with the calmest of finishes, was made sweeter by the end result.
Gerrard wasn’t the only hero in Cardiff, of course, as Reina saved penalties from Bobby Zamora, Konchesky and Anton Ferdinand to effectively win the game in the Spaniard’s first season with the club.
Even the sight of Prince William shuffling off as the Liverpool squad bounced around him in the trophy should not be forgotten.
Liverpool: Reina; Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise; Gerrard, Alonso (Kromkamp 67′), Sissoko, Kewell (Morientes 48′); Crouch (Hamann 71′), Cisse
Subs not used: Dudek, Traore
West Ham: Hislop; Scaloni, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Fletcher (Dailly 77′), Etherington (Sheringham 85′); Harewood, Ashton (Zamora 71′)
Subs not used: Walker, Collins