FRANK Lampard brought his glittering career in English football to an end in fitting fashion with a goal in Manchester City’s 2-0 victory over Southampton.
The former England and Chelsea midfielder, made captain in his final game before joining New York City, opened the scoring as City wrapped up their Barclays Premier League campaign with a sixth successive win.
Lampard left the action in the 77th minute to a huge ovation from all sides of the ground before the prolific Sergio Aguero grabbed the second from close range three minutes from time.
It was the Argentinian’s 26th Premier League goal of the season and underlined his status as golden boot winner.
But the main headlines were taken by Lampard, who signed off with his 259th goal in his 882nd club appearance in English club football.
City had actually fielded a midfield trio of players who may not be at the Etihad Stadium next season, with Yaya Toure and James Milner also starting. They too were also substituted to warm appreciation during the second half.
In terms of the rest of the action, the game lacked the intensity of regular Premier League matches but both sides showed enough energy and quality to entertain the crowd.
Aguero was twice denied in the first half by Southampton’s veteran goalkeeper Kelvin Davis, who caught the eye on his 300th and possibly final appearance for the club.
The end-of-season feel was evident among the visitors’ large and vociferous following, many of whom were in orange in tribute to their Dutch manager Ronald Koeman.
But Saints did have something riding on the game, with the chance to possibly secure Europa League football without waiting on the FA Cup final result.
The visitors did show some bite with Filip Djuricic skipping past Martin Demichelis only to be hacked down. Referee Chris Foy - another bidding farewell to the Premier League scene - showed the yellow card.
Further sloppiness in the City back line saw Demichelis give the ball away and Shane Long beat Pablo Zabaleta - but Joe Hart dealt with his shot.
City responded with a lightning counter-attack which saw David Silva release Aguero with a perfect through-ball, but remarkably the Argentinian blasted wide.
Toure tested Davis from the edge of the area. The keeper could only parry but was alert enough to smother Aguero’s effort on the rebound.
City went ahead when Milner pulled the ball back across the area for Lampard who, in trademark fashion, timed his run to perfection and smashed into the roof of the net.
City almost immediately had a second after Silva again fed Aguero but Davis once more thwarted the Argentinian.
A long-bursting charge by Toure set up another Aguero chance but Jose Fonte got in the way and Davis had to be alert to keep out his captain’s near-disastrous sliced clearance.
Southampton were starved of possession but Graziano Pelle fired a chance wide and the visitors started the second half with some purpose, only for the flag to twice frustrate them.
Toure was withdrawn by manager Manuel Pellegrini just after the hour and the fans who applauded him off were left to wonder whether they would see him in action again.
There were then good ovations for Lampard and Milner, who had defied injury to play on a bit longer, as time ticked away.
Hart and Davis were never out of the game but the contest did seem to be winding down to a conclusion when Aguero popped up for his goal.
Eliaquim Mangala headed back across goal after a Jesus Navas shot was blocked and Aguero pounced at the far the post with a close-range header.