If Steven Gerrard had been searching for adjectives to describe the emotions of his final game for Liverpool then abysmal, lacklustre and shambolic were perhaps not the ones he had in mind beforehand.
Unfortunately for the Liverpool captain, that is precisely how the majority of visiting supporters – minus the expletives – summed up this utter humiliation for Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium.
Not even a goal from the veteran midfielder in his 710th and final appearance for his boyhood club could provide a crumb of comfort after a truly awful display which left Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, acknowledging that his job was on the line.
“I accept 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 fix that. My pride makes me want to be in this job. I love the job and I love the club.”
Liverpool sustained their biggest Premier League defeat here, and their worst since a 7-2 loss to Tottenham in April 1963, as Stoke ruthlessly exposed the inadequacies of Rodgers and his players.
This was the kind of inept afternoon that will inevitably raise serious questions from supporters about whether Rodgers has lost the support of his players and is the right man to lead the Reds forward.
The wrath Rodgers incurred from angry Liverpool fans as he walked towards the tunnel at half-time with his side 5-0 down left the Northern Irishman in remorseful mood afterwards.
“To start with it’s an apology to the supporters,” Rodgers added. “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 a Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana as a pair of ‘false’ nines, their play lacked clear direction, invention and focus.
Of course, that should take nothing away from Stoke who, despite having little to play for, were motivated and aggressive. The result was that they demolished the lacklustre visitors in a clinical manner.
The Stoke striker Mame Biram Diouf opened the scoring when he capitalised on Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet’s fumble to smash home from close range, and added a spectacular second from long range.
A needless header back across goal by Emre Can allowed Jonathan Walters to bundle in a third before a Charlie Adam got the fourth and Steven N’Zonzi arrowed in the fifth 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 tensions up further after a tumultuous week for the England forward. 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 on to Rickie Lambert’s flick-on and netted his 186th goal for the club 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.
However, Stoke had the final word and heaped 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 the Stoke manager, Mark Hughes, after his side had 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 the last Liverpool player to trudge off the pitch at full-time, almost too embarrassed even to acknowledge those supporters that who stayed behind to wave goodbye.
Whether Rodgers also has to say his farewells this summer remains to be seen.Reuse content