To have been so close to the title, to almost see it, touch it and taste it will be a bitter pill to swallow. Anfield has been distilled with such belief and optimism this season that to see dreams snatched away so quickly at the final hurdle hurts.
The 3-3 draw at Palace was enough to see Liverpool move top of the table once again, but never has going top in the final week of the season felt so deflating.
Perhaps, though, that is a testament to how far Liverpool have come this season, and should they fall short in the title race, there is a world of positives to be taken from 2013-14.
Brendan Rodgers wore the expression of a disappointed man in his post-match interviews at Selhurst Park, gutted to have seen his side throw away a three-goal lead so carelessly.
But the pride Rodgers has shown all season in leading Liverpool and the progress made was still abundantly clear, per Dominic Fifield of The Guardian:
We can be incredibly proud of this season. We've scored 99 goals – we'd managed 47 the season before I came in and to have kept improving like we have gives me immense pride. We're actually ahead of schedule.
We've made great strides and, while I'm here, I'm fighting to win titles. I'll be relentless in my quest for that. That's why I came. I've seen a lot this season that has given us great hope going forward. We're building something sustainable. We haven't thrown a bucket-load of money at it. We're trying to build. We'll keep working and we'll try and make more strides forward next season.
Of course, Rodgers is right.
Since leaving Swansea City for Anfield in 2012, Rodgers has transformed Liverpool from a mediocre side finishing eighth in the league under Kenny Dalglish to at least a top-three side—a seismic shift only matched by the epic capitulation at Old Trafford this year.
Even more exciting is that Rodgers has laid the groundwork for the club to sustain progression with an investment in youth and a whole-club positive mentality shared by the fans and players alike.
Players have found themselves this season.
Jordan Henderson now drives Liverpool’s midfield forward, and he has been a sorry miss over the Reds’ last few games.
Raheem Sterling has matured beyond his years, and Luis Suarez has taken the crown of the best player in English football, if not the world stage.
Rodgers has helped salvage the career of Steven Gerrard by finding him the perfect new position, nestled between defence and midfield, for the latter stages of his career.
The likes of Mamadou Sakho and Mignolet have enjoyed solid first seasons at the club, and the remarkable rise to first-team regular of Jon Flanagan has perhaps been the biggest success story of them all.
Being the first English side to secure Champions League football for next season was a special feat in itself, and Rodgers will now look to build a squad capable of challenging both domestically and in Europe.
For the fans, 2013-14 has made the Kop dream again, unite and believe. There has been euphoria about Liverpool this season, described by Vice magazine’s Clive Martin as “a city on ecstasy at the moment.”
The stunning seas of red as the players’ team bus arrived down Anfield Road, the passionate chants of “We are Liverpool tra la la la la” down to Gerrard’s post-Man City-win team huddle, crying “We go again!” like a warrior leading his men into battle have all painted such wonderful imagery along the way.
Immense pride has returned to the red half of Merseyside, something Rodgers spoke about in the buildup to Monday’s game at Crystal Palace, per This Is Anfield:
"I take great pride when I’ve met Liverpool fans this week who say they’re finding pride in their club again. That is very satisfying."
If Liverpool are to miss out on the title at such a late stage, mental repair work will no doubt need to be done, but the Reds have suffered setbacks before and recovered triumphantly.
Still, the famous phrase “it’s not over until the fat lady sings” never seemed more apt for Liverpool than right now, and it is not out of the realm of possibility for Aston Villa to go to the Etihad on Wednesday night and get a result that would swing the title the Reds’ way again.
Regardless of what happens come 5 p.m. BST on Sunday and who is on top of the Premier League table, 2013-14 has been a season full of positives for Liverpool and is a solid base upon which future success can be built.
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