It was a day that many a Liverpool fan hoped would never happen, both in terms of result and circumstances, and no-one more so than the main man himself, Steven Gerrard.
Their famous No.8 pulled on his jersey and led his team out for the last time at his adopted home, but left the pitch with the party atmosphere somewhat spoiled after a 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
It was always going to be an emotional day at Anfield, and the customary rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ will have sent shivers down the spine of even the most stone-hearted football fans. Gerrard knew he would would be the focus of so much attention and, with his summer move to LA Galaxy now imminent, he was full of many emotions.
“It felt very strange,” said Gerrard after the game. “I’ve been dreading this moment and the reason being I’m going to miss it so much.
“To play for Liverpool was a dream come true. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me over the years. I’ve played in front of supporters all around the world, you are the best. I’m devastated I’ll never play in front of these fans again”
Liverpool had got off to a good start when Adam Lallana’s run and shot beat Wayne Hennessey in the Palace goal midway through the first half. However, they were pegged-back on the brink of half-time when a lovely Jason Puncheon free-kick nestled in the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Wilfried Zaha put the away side in front on the hour mark with his first touches after coming on seconds earlier as substitute, and a controversial 90th minute rebound from his own penalty meant Glenn Murray consigned the Reds to defeat.
The proverbial script went in the shredder as Liverpool failed to give their leader a perfect farewell.
The result means Gerrard’s team-mates are not even certain of a Europa League spot, never mind not playing Champions League football next year. It is a competition that holds so many memories for the supporters of the five-times winner, especially approaching the 10th anniversary of that famous night in Istanbul.
That Champions League final comeback win against AC Milan on May 25th 2005 was something that embodied Gerrard’s whole Liverpool career.
A team that needed to be led and badly required inspiration, found it in Gerrard. Sadly, the same could not be said today and, after his last appearance away to Stoke City next week, Liverpool will have to look elsewhere for a hero that has served them so well.
His Anfield career spanned 17 years, from making his debut as an 18 year-old, to becoming the colossus that bound the club together with 708 games, 185 goals and 10 trophies.
Gerrard has had a career akin to ‘Roy of the Rovers’ levels of narrative. As a Scouser, the midfielder lived the dream in more ways than one. To play for the club he supported as a boy; scoring vital goals in cup finals; captaining both club and country; winning 114 England caps, even winning an MBE – Gerrard did it all.
Along with the Champions League, he won two FA Cups, the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and a glittering collection of personal awards. The Premier League infamously eluded him, however, and along with the highs came lows such as his costly slip against Chelsea as Liverpool blew their title chances.
Football greats such as Pele, Zinedine Zidane, Francesco Totti, Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson have all expressed their admiration of the Whiston-born maestro down the years, and his influence and presence have adorned his performances throughout his career.
His fighting nature to never give up meant Liverpool won silverware they perhaps would not have were he not in the side.
Like all great players, he put in his best performances when they really mattered – on the biggest of stages.
As Brendan Rodgers loses the most significant component in his Liverpool side, the question remains as to who can replace such a man, in terms of both quality and character.
In weeks, months and years to come, fans will look back on the time they saw Gerrard play and be thankful for getting to witness such a player.
After all the tributes and reaction from across the globe, it was perhaps his own fans’ banner that encapsulated his Liverpool career most fittingly.
It read: “The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.”