It was easy to talk about the result being secondary pre-match, as there was an air of optimism and confidence about getting the win against Crystal Palace. With three points an inevitability, the focus was squarely on saying goodbye to Steven Gerrard, an occasion for which Anfield was well-prepared. The guard of honor and mosaic were executed to perfection, and with a first-half lead and Liverpool looking fairly comfortable, the captain's farewell hadn't yet proved a daunting prospect.
An equalizer late in the half and improved play from the visitors changed the mood, however, and two second-half goals later, Liverpool were on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat that was all too familiar and forced to give Gerrard a somber, almost apologetic sendoff in front of the Kop.
Gerrard handled the occasion with class and dignity throughout, clearly pressing at times during the match but taking the day's events with composure and humility, and offering thanks to his club and its supporters post-match:
"It felt very strange (playing my last game here). I've been dreading this moment, the reason being is because I'm going to miss this so much. I've loved every minute so I'm devastated I'll never get to pay in front of these supporters again. It's very difficult to pick one (favourite moment) but the first time you play for Liverpool Football Club is a dream come true and everything after that was a bonus for me.
"The club is in good hands. We have fantastic owners and a good manager. There is unbelievable potential. I am sure we are going to be some new signings in coming weeks.
"I'd like to thank everyone at the club who has helped me in the last 17 years. There's too many people to name. I'd like to thank all my team-mates and all the ex-players, they have made me the player I am today. My final word is for the most important people. These supporters stand out more than any others I have experienced. Before the tears come, I have played in front of most supporters around the world and let me tell you, you are the best."
As difficult as the past year has been for Steven Gerrard, today underlined the importance of his role at the club, and, as poor as the actual football was, it was a wonderful reminder of how much he means to Liverpool. Thanks for everything.