STOKE-ON-TRENT, May 24- Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard scored on his final Premier League appearance but it proved a bittersweet moment as the Reds were thrashed 6-1 by Stoke City on Sunday at the Britannia Stadium.
Gerrard will join Major League Soccer outfit LA Galaxy, when his contract expires,,and any hopes the midfielder had of finishing with a victory in his 710th match were ended by a dominant first-half display by Stoke.
The Potters blew the visitors away as they carved open the Liverpool defence at will to score five goals in 23 minutes as the Reds suffered their joint biggest defeat in the Premier League.
It was also Liverpool’s heaviest defeat since 1954.
However, with Liverpool 5-0 down Gerrard got on scoresheet as he latched on to a flick on from Rickie Lambert with 20 minutes of the game left and struck a low shot angled past Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Stoke have become a more refined outfit under Mark Hughes but they lacked none of the aggression and intensity with which they were synonymous in the opening stages.
And even though they had little to play for, Hughes’ side were determined to not to go through the motions.
Liverpool flickered briefly into life early on and a neat passing culminated in a chance for Adam Lallana, who curled the ball round Begovic from a tight angle but also past the Stoke goalkeeper’s post.
The Potters then seized control of the game though a mixture of clinical finishing and lacklustre defending from Liverpool
Stoke opened the scoring when Marko Arnautovic cut the ball back for Charlie Adam on the edge of the area and his powerful shot was spilt by Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet into the path of Mame Biram Diouf who emphatically dispatched it from close range.
The Belgian goalkeeper was slightly less at fault for Stoke’s second moments later when Senegal forward Diouf was allowed space to unleash a fierce shot which flew into the back of the net.
Liverpool were, though, architects of their own downfall for Stoke’s third goal when a routine cross into the box was headed back across goal by Emre Can for Jonathan Walters to bundle home at the second attempt.
Stoke were hungry for more goals and added a fourth when Adam caught Lucas in possession after a weak pass from Mamadou Sakho and drilled a lot shot into the bottom corner of the net.
A fifth arrived on the stroke of half-time when Steven Nzonzi ran forward unchallenged and spectacularly struck the ball from 25 yards over Mignolet and into the net.
Liverpool needed a second-half comeback better than the 2005 Champions League final vintage inspired by Gerrard, but predictably it became more about damage limitation in the second period for Brendan Rodgers.
The Liverpool manager was not tempted to introduce Raheem Sterling, after a week of intense scrutiny about the forward’s future, at the break.
Instead he replaced Can with Kolo Toure and Alberto Moreno with Jordon Ibe at half-time and later brought Lambert on with 21 minutes remaining.
And it was from Lambert’s flick on that Gerrard profited with his 186th goal for the Reds with a composed finish – met by a standing ovation from all four sides of the Britannia Stadium.
However, Stoke had the final word and heaped more misery on Liverpool when Diouf crossed from the right flank for substitute Peter Crouch to head home.