The final day of the Premier League season saw Stoke City thrash Liverpool at home, winning 6-1 in incredible style to end the campaign in ninth, with the Reds in sixth.
Liverpool concede 5 first-half goals in top flight league match for first time since 1976 (Villa 5-1). #lfc— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaLive) May 24, 2015
6 - Liverpool have conceded 6+ goals in a league game for the first time since losing 7-2 to Spurs in 1963. Demolished.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 24, 2015
Charlie Adam, in good scoring form lately, was the first to try his luck from range but cleared Simon Mignolet's bar after Lucas Leiva lost possession in the centre of the pitch. Moments later, the Stoke midfielder was booked after he went in studs-up on Martin Skrtel during a busy, end-to-end start to the game.
The Reds' first attack of note came from Steven Gerrard, in his final game for the club, switching play right to Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian showed good skill and control to beat his man and cut infield but fired his effort well off target.
Early yellow cards kept coming, as first Lucas and then Glenn Whelan were booked, before Adam was lucky to escape a second yellow just 16 minutes into the game. Adam then tried a 40-yard shot on the turn, but despite the ironic cheers of the home fans, it was well off target. At the other end, Coutinho played in Adam Lallana, whose curled shot just evaded the far post.
Stoke v Liverpool anything but a typical end of season affair. No flip flops required. Shinpads all too necessary.— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) May 24, 2015
The first goal came just past the 20-minute mark, when Marko Arnautovic beat Emre Can, Adam saw his shot from the edge of the box saved by Simon Mignolet, but the 'keeper could only palm his save into the path of Mame Biram Diouf, who finished high into the net.
That was unexpectedly the signal to open the floodgates: Diouf smashed in a second just minutes later, cracking in a finish from the edge of the box that gave Mignolet no chance, before an awful defensive mix-up saw Emre Can nod a cross down in his own six-yard box to allow Jon Walters to score from close range at the second attempt.
It got even worse before the break, as Liverpool's sloppy defensive play continued.
Mamadou Sakho and Lucas combined to lose possession to Adam before the ex-Red drove forward and cracked in a low finish into the bottom corner to make it 4-0, which was soon followed by Steven Nzonzi, who put a top-class, curling effort into the top corner for an incredible 5-0 scoreline at the break.
Liverpool made a double substitution at half-time to try and repair some damage, bringing on Kolo Toure and Jordon Ibe, but they made little difference to the penetration of the side. The Reds enjoyed more time on the ball after the break but found no route to goal beyond a few corners and dribbles from Ibe down the left flank.
The away team's first shot on target came on 64 minutes, when Lallana shot straight at Asmir Begovic just a few moments after Martin Skrtel escaped a second yellow for a poor challenge on Nzonzi.
Stoke were obviously sitting back and not as intent on attacking in the second half, and the Reds' marginal improvement was rewarded in emotional terms at least, as Gerrard ran onto a Rickie Lambert header to sweep a fine low finish past Begovic to mark his final Reds appearance with a goal.
Despite that better push in the second-half, chiefly from Ibe and Gerrard, it was Stoke who fittingly had the last word, as Diouf crossed from the left and Peter Crouch rose to power a record-breaking header into the corner to round off the scoring.
47 - Peter Crouch has now scored 47 headed goals in the Premier League, more than any other player. Giant.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 24, 2015
The 6-1 scoreline marked the first time Liverpool have conceded six goals in a game since 1963.
Steve Nzonzi: A
Nzonzi ran the game in the first half, winning the ball in the centre and left side of the park and spraying passes to get his team on the front foot throughout. His infrequent bursts forward caused panic as Liverpool backed off, which ultimately led to his precision finish for the fifth Stoke goal.
Every Single Liverpool Player: No Rating
This was a complete and utter shambles from the away side, who were lacking in effort, application, shape and ability on the ball.
The only important words following the game came from Reds boss Brendan Rodgers, who apologised in his press conference. Per LiverpoolFC.com:
To start with, it's an apology. I think everybody, all the supporters connected with Liverpool, will - like us all - be embarrassed by that and they deserve an apology. In the first half, we were too easily beaten.
They have every right to be [angry]. These supporters have been brilliant for us, particularly away from home with the support we've had. We can have no complaints - any of us. The supporters were angry at half-time and rightly so because that was awful, first half. Absolutely awful.
There are a number of key elements of the performance today that didn't surprise me, if I'm being honest.