Liverpool Stoke City Wrap: Reds Suffer Widespread Letdown In Season-Ending Loss

Steven Gerrard headlined a generation of Liverpool players and fans, who have just discovered what little joy there is in six.

Stoke City hammered Liverpool 6-1 Sunday in the teams’ final game of the 2014-15 Premier League season. Not even Steven Gerrard’s goal-scoring farewell could mask the scale of Stoke City’s dominance or Liverpool’s end-of-season capitulation.

Stoke City scored five goals in a 25-minute spell toward the end of the first half, including three in an eight-minute stretch, which sealed the hosts’ victory. By the time Liverpool recovered its focus and determination, it already was too late to prevent the season, and Gerrard’s storied Liverpool career, from ending on an embarrassing note.

Mame Diouf started Stoke City’s goal parade with strikes in the 22nd and 26th minutes. Jonathan Walters scored the hosts’ third in the 30th minute, and former Red Charlie Adam made it 4-0 in the 41st minute. Each goal was the byproduct of one or more errors by Liverpool’s field players or goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

Liverpool already was on course for a historic drubbing when Steven Nzonzi curled home a superb fifth goal from 25 yards in the 45th minute.

Liverpool was down and out by halftime. Its five-goal deficit forced manager Brendan Rodgers to replace fullbacks Emre Can and Alberto Moreno with Kolo Toure and Jordon Ibe and change the Reds’ formation from a four- to three-man defense.

Rodgers’ tactical and personel adjustments helped Liverpool gain a foothold in a contest it had long since lost. Gerrard scored his farewell goal in the 70th minute but Peter Crouch, another former Liverpool player, canceled out the departing captain’s goal with an 87th-minute header.

Rodgers managed to tweak Liverpool back to life, but his interventions only were necessary because the fighting spirit, reserves of energy and tactical awareness that sparked the Reds’ mid-season revival were nowhere to be found either in the first half at the Britannia Stadium or in other recent outings.

Rodgers now is under intense pressure after presiding over a slump, in which Liverpool won just three and drew two of its last 11 games in all competitions. The Reds plummeted from contention for a top-four finish and a place in the FA Cup final to sixth place in the final Premier League standings in the disastrous last two months of the season.

Liverpool will enter next season’s UEFA Europa League in the qualifying stages in early August without Gerrard. Raheem Sterling, whom Rodgers dropped to the bench and was an unused substitute amid rumors of discord with the club, also could follow Gerrard out the door.

The two stars, old and young, are the only Reds to emerge from the Stoke City drubbing with a shred of credit. Rodgers and the remaining Reds now must start the long-haul crawl up from the historic depth of an overall disappointing season without one or both of its top two goal scorers.

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Thumbnail photo via Rui Vieira/The Associated Press

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