If Steven Gerrard was wondering beforehand how to describe his final game for Liverpool then woeful, shocking and embarrassing would not have been the words he would have had in mind.
Sadly for the Liverpool captain that’s how the majority of visiting fans – excluding the expletives of course — would have viewed this desperate humiliation at the Britannia Stadium.
Not even a goal from 34-year-old Gerrard in his 710th and final outing for the Reds could provide a crumb of comfort after a truly dreadful display.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) May 24, 2015
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Peter Crouch has now scored the most headed Premier League goals (47).
It was also one which left Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers acknowledging his job was potentially on the line.
“I absolutely accept that there will be questions,” Rodgers said. “I’ve always said if the owners want me to go, I go. I still feel I have a lot to offer.
“There is an awful lot of work to do and our job is to go to fix that. My pride makes me want to be in this job. I love the job and I love the club.
“This season has been a tough season and in this period now we’ve come up short.”
This was Liverpool’s heaviest ever Premier League defeat, their worst since a 7-2 hammering by Tottenham in April 1963, as Stoke ruthlessly exposed the ineptness of Rodgers and his players.
It was the type of inexcusable afternoon that will raise serious questions from fans about whether Rodgers has lost the dressing room and whether he is the right man to move the club forward.
The ire the manager incurred from angry Liverpool fans as he walked towards the tunnel at half-time with his side 5-0 down left him in remorseful mood afterwards.
Rodgers said: “To start with it’s an apology to the supporters. We are embarrassed and the supporters deserve an apology. I take responsibility.
“The supporters have every right to be angry. They have been brilliant for us so we can have no complaints. The fans were angry at half-time and rightly so because that was awful.”
Liverpool suffered defensive lapses at the back with mistakes galore, while in midfield and up front, spearheaded by Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana as a pair of ‘false’ nines, their play lacked invention and focus.
Naturally, that should take nothing away from the Potters who, despite having little to play for, were motivated and aggressive.
The result was that they demolished the lacklustre visitors in a clinical manner, condemning Liverpool to a disappointing sixth place finish.
Stoke striker Mame Biram Diouf opened the scoring when he capitalised on Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet’s fumble to smash home from close range. The same player then added a spectacular second from long range.
A casual header back across goal by Emre Can allowed Jonathan Walters to bundle in a third before Charlie Adam and Steven Nzonzi arrowed in from distance.
While there was turmoil on the pitch, Rodgers hid contract rebel Raheem Sterling on the bench — perhaps worried he did not need to spice up tensions further after a tumultuous week. Who could blame him for leaving after that? “I felt there were others players better mentally positioned to be in the game. It was as simple as that,” Rodgers added.
With 20 minutes left, Gerrard latched onto Rickie Lambert’s flick on and netted the 186th goal of his career with an angled finish which drew a standing ovation from all four sides of the ground.
It was a bittersweet strike he will remember for all the wrong reasons. Stoke were to have the last say and heap more misery on Liverpool when Diouf, still with bags of energy, crossed from the right flank late on for substitute Peter Crouch to head home.
“I’m sure Steven wasn’t anticipating that would be the manner of his last game,” said Stoke boss Mark Hughes, after his side finished with 54 points — their best Premier League haul.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better finish to a great season. The level of performance in the first 45 minutes was exceptional.”
Gerrard was last Liverpool player to trudge off the pitch at full-time, almost too embarrassed to even acknowledge those supporters that had stayed behind to wave goodbye.
Whether Rodgers also has to say his farewells in a disappointing manner remains to be seen.
Begovic 7; Cameron 6, Shawcross 7, Muniesa 6 (Wilson 68, 6), Pieters 5; Nzonzi 8, Whelan 7; Walters 7 (Odemwingie 67, 6), Adam 9, Arnautovic 7 (Crouch 80); Diouf 8.
Mignolet 4; Can 3 (Toure 45, 6), Skrtel 4, Sakho 4, Moreno 3 (Ibe 45, 5); Lucas 4; Henderson 5, Gerrard 7, Allen 6 (Lambert 69, 6); Lallana 5 Coutinho 6.
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