The glimpse of the post-Gerrard Anfield landscape did not make pretty viewing as Palace emerged from an emotional afternoon with a thoroughly deserved victory but, after a week of looking back at the career of their inspirational captain, it was finally time for the famous old club to look forward.
Brendan Rodgers talks in an almost matter-of-fact fashion about finding a replacement for Steven Gerrard, on and off the field, but his track record in that department has been less than stellar.
As the manager pointed out after Liverpool’s disappointing season ended in home defeat, even in his short time at the club, he has been required to look for successor’s for Jamie Carragher and Luis Suarez’s considerable influence in the defensive and attacking departments.
Having failed emphatically on both counts, Rodgers now has the even more daunting task of replacing a player who has spent nearly two decades as a pivotal figure with his hometown club.
“That’s what we have to find — the answers to that,” said Rodgers. “As you say Stevie going, he has a huge influence in the changing room and a star quality. That will be missed but if you want to be the big player at a club like this you have to step up and make the contribution in the big games. That is the idea next season.
“We have players with good character and if we can throw in some quality with that, it is important. We need threat at the top end of the field because too many have disappeared for us, you only need to look at the number of goals.
“We have to find ways to get those goals back, the creativity and offensive threat while staying disciplined in our defending.
“You have to find the solutions to that. It is an incredible lot of experience, game management and quality gone out of the team but it is something we will find I am sure.”
The failure to find a defensive presence to match Carragher’s is one that has haunted Rodgers all season, particularly against the pace, directness and confidence displayed by Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon here.
And, naturally, the loss of Suarez and his 31 league goals 12 months ago continues to haunt the manager, especially with constant doubts over the long-term fitness of Daniel Sturridge.
To that mix, Rodgers has now lost, arguably, the most inspirational figure in the club’s history, certainly of the Premier League era, and he must again compete with the “big four” clubs who have finished above him in the table as he seeks a replacement.
Perhaps there was an air of inevitability in the manner of Gerrard’s Anfield farewell.
After all, the Liverpool icon was supposed to end last season by lifting his first ever Premier League title only for their bid to end in the cruellest of circumstances following his slip against Chelsea.
And this season, until last month’s shock semi-final defeat to Aston Villa, it appeared to be destined that his farewell appearance would be in an FA Cup final, a competition the 34-year-old won twice in his 17 years with the club.
Instead, after a guard of honour from both teams and raucous response from the Kop greeted Gerrard onto the field for the final time, Liverpool’s wide-ranging shortcomings were exposed.
Adam Lallana handed Liverpool an early lead which Puncheon’s free-kick equalised before the interval and, after it, Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray, from a saved penalty, completed the rout.
“Yes I think so,” said Jordan Henderson, when asked if the players had let down Gerrard on his big day.
“We wanted the three points first and foremost to finish as high as we can, and also for the fans, in the last game at Anfield. They have been amazing all season and we wanted to give them a good game to send them home happy — and obviously to give Stevie a good send off. It was very disappointing.”
So much of the season has been “very disappointing,” to the point that, incredibly and unjustly, there have even been murmurings of disquiet in some sections of the Anfield nation at the performance of Rodgers.
“Listen, I can understand the supporters’ frustration this season when you think of the journey we were on last year,” he said.
“The quality of the football and the game they were watching has not been there this season. As a supporter you want to turn up and see the team win and win well and at times that has not been the case. It is a big challenge for us so from a manager’s perspective there is a sense of reality in what we lost but rightly so the supporters want to see the team improving. That’s our job in the summer to replace and find the players who will make the difference.”
Mignolet 8; Can 4, Skrtel 5, Lovren 4; Ibe 7 (Lambert 64, 6), Gerrard 5, Henderson 6, Moreno 4 (Sinclair 86); Lallana 6 (Lucas 64, 5), Coutinho 5; Sterling 5.
Hennessey 7; Ward 8, Kelly 7, Dann 8, Souare 7; Puncheon 9, McArthur 7, Ledley 7, Chung-Yong 7 (Zaha 59, 7); Chamakh 8 (Mutch 75, 7); Bolasie 8 (Murray 82).
J Moss 7