A star is born

Steven Gerrard’s final appearance for the Reds against their fierce rivals Everton also marked Jordon Ibe’s first, and his performance went some way to softening the blow for the Anfield faithful of seeing their favourite son ride off into the MLS sunset at the end of the season.

Much of the talk prior to the latest Merseyside derby centred around the forthcoming end of an era at Liverpool. Afterwards, it was all about the dawn of a new one.

Steven Gerrard’s final appearance for the Reds against their fierce rivals Everton also marked Jordon Ibe’s first, and his performance went some way to softening the blow for the Anfield faithful of seeing their favourite son ride off into the MLS sunset at the end of the season.

The 19-year-old, recently recalled from a loan spell at Derby, was named Man of the Match and went closest to breaking the deadlock when his shot from deep clattered the far post in the first-half.

While captain Gerrard was disappointed by the goal-less draw, he was optimistic for Liverpool’s future having witnessed a virtuoso performance from his young team-mate.

“He’s fantastic,” said the Reds skipper. “He only found out he was playing the day before so to have 24 hours to prepare for a big match and be Man of the Match, it was a very sensational performance. He was very unlucky not to get the winner with that unbelievable strike in the first-half. If he keeps working hard, he’s got a terrific future.”

Ibe went on to prove that display was no flash in the pan by playing a key role in the 3-2 win over Tottenham which put Liverpool firmly in the hunt for UEFA Champions League qualification.

Born in Bermondsey, south London, the winger came through the youth system at Wycombe and made his debut, aged just 15, as a substitute in a League Cup win over Colchester.

In December 2011 he was snapped up by Liverpool for an undisclosed fee and two productive loan spells followed, first with Birmingham whom Ibe helped save from relegation to League One.

He spent the first half of this season with Derby, and his stock rose even further after five goals in 24 appearances for the Rams.

Former England head coach Steve McClaren, now in charge of promotion-chasing Derby, was certainly impressed. “I am on the edge of my seat when he gets the ball,” he said. “He is, kind of, like the jinky wingers we used to get in the game. We wanted to bring players here who can get the crowd on the edge of their seats when they pick the ball up. That is what Jordon has done. He has lit us up when he has played.”

McClaren was understandably disappointed when Ibe was recalled by Brendan Rodgers, but the Anfield chief believes Ibe has a big part to play for the Reds over the remainder of the season.

Rodgers also feels the youngster’s versatility could prove crucial as Liverpool bid to break into the top four. “If you look at the system we are playing now, Jordon can play in any one of the front five positions — outside, in behind or through the middle and that’s one of the reasons we brought him back,” said Rodgers.

“He is a really talented footballer with a bright football brain and he can play in any one of those positions. I think his favourite position — and that’s what you’ve always got to look at — is that he is a player who wants to be wide and set up the duel for a one against one. His positioning has improved and that gives him the freedom to go inside and outside.”

Gerrard’s days at Anfield will soon be over but there is reason to think Liverpool still have a bright future.

© PA Sport