Liverpool shelled out £20m on the Stewart Downing experiment and it unduly came to a failed end. Brendan Rodgers has well and truly made his mark on a squad that still had Kenny Daglish’s imprint upon it and he’s wielded his axe to end Downing’s Liverpool career. The winger had mixed fortunes during his time on Merseyside and it seemed the monumental fee weighed heavy on his shoulders. However, there are a few highlights from his time at Anfield. Without a shadow of a doubt, his best moment came in the FA Cup quarter-final in the 2011/2012 season against Stoke City. Downing snatched the decisive winner just before the hour mark to send Liverpool through to a Wembley semi-final. A neat one-two with Steven Gerrard and a storming run into the box gave Downing the time and space to smash a left-footed strike into the bottom right. It was a real net-bulger worthy of the occasion but unfortunately a rare sight for the former Aston Villa man.
It took Downing 18 long and arduous months before the England international netted his first Premier League goal in a Liverpool shirt. Twitter was left in shock when he grabbed his first assist and goal during Liverpool’s 4-0 demolition of Fulham last season. As he had tried to do on so many occasions before, the Reds midfielder drifted in from the right wing before angling his effort just inside the near post. Arguably the Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer should have done a lot better with the strike but Downing wheeled away with a face that smacked relief. Moments before the goal, he delighted the Anfield faithful with his first assist. A brilliant one at that. He evaded the Fulham defence on the right side before drifting inside to thread a beautifully weighted ball through to Gerrard to slot past Schwarzer.
Downing’s best performance in the red shirt came during the League Cup triumph over Cardiff. The winger was the standout performer in the final as he produced the sort of form that saw Liverpool shell out that £20m on him. He was a surprise starter to begin with as it was anticipated Craig Bellamy would keep his place in the side. But Downing grabbed the opportunity with both hands and was the best outlet for the Reds during the entire game. The desire and drive that had perhaps been missing in previous games was back as he hassled the Cardiff back line. Downing was a constant threat down the right side and if he could have reproduced the performance on that day then the move to West Ham may have never come to fruition.
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