LIVERPOOL’s season-ending meltdown was completed at the Britannia Stadium where Stoke won 6-1 to inflict the Reds’ heaviest defeat for 52 years while notching their biggest home victory over the Merseysiders in over a century.
Brendan Rodgers insisted on Friday he was 150 per cent sure he would be manager next season despite his side missing all the targets Fenway Sports Group set him back in August.
But eight points from their final nine matches indicate a collapse of epic proportions, and performances like this one are just the sort which owners take notice of.
Rodgers’ end-of-season review with FSG’s high-ranking Anfield representative Mike Gordon should be an interesting one next week.
The shambles of a failing campaign was encapsulated in 45 minutes with Mame Biram Diouf scoring a brace, with Charlie Adam, Jon Walters and Steven Nzonzi also on target before the interval - the first time Liverpool had conceded five first-half goals in top-flight league since 1976 against Aston Villa.
Steven Gerrard pulled one back on his last appearance for the club but substitute Peter Crouch made it 6-1 late on.
If Rodgers thought he had problems with Raheem Sterling, whom he left out the starting line-up for the first time in over three months after a week of headlines about his contract, this underlined the extent of the issues he has to address in the summer.
Stoke tore their visitors apart and the folly of playing Emre Can as a makeshift right-back over recent weeks was finally brutally exposed as Marko Arnautovic gave him such a torrid time he was replaced at the break along with left-back Alberto Moreno.
The reasons for recognised right-back Glen Johnson not even making the squad were known only to Rodgers but the England international will probably have been grateful.
Johnson is out of contract next month and destined for another club, tweeting earlier in the day: “A big thank you to all the people out there who have genuinely supported me through the last six years. #200 #NewChapter.”
Also leaving in the summer is captain Gerrard. A hero of so many fantastic performances in a 17-year professional career with the club, this was a terrible way for him to sign off.
Stoke’s 23-minute onslaught began when Arnautovic set up Adam for a long-range drive which Simon Mignolet could only parry into the path of Diouf.
The Potters striker doubled his tally with a swerving strike which Mignolet should have done much better with before Can’s miserable afternoon - mercifully cut short - got worse when he inexplicably headed a cross back to his goalkeeper only for Walters to nip in and score at the second attempt.
Adam Lallana’s penalty appeal after a Geoff Cameron challenge was Liverpool’s only real threat and Stoke responded with Adam firing in a low left-footed drive and Nzonzi curling a 25-yarder into the top corner.
Stoke celebrated their end-of-season party with chants of ‘Easy’ and ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’ to Rodgers, who stood alone in his technical area.
If home fans, who taunted substitute Sterling with songs about being greedy after the 20-year-old turned down a £100,000-a-week contract, could not believe what they were seeing, Liverpool’s 2,805-strong travelling support was incredulous.
They, too, had let Sterling know their feelings with boos and numerous angry gestures as he walked past them on the way to the tunnel both before kick-off and half-time.
Gerrard at least gave them something to cheer in the 69th minute when the captain raced through to slot past Asmir Begovic, back in the team after being rested for Jack Butland recently, for his 186th goal in his 710th game.
But former Anfield striker Crouch headed in to inflict Liverpool’s heaviest defeat since losing 7-2 to Spurs in 1963.
While Rodgers has huge changes to make, things are progressing nicely for Mark Hughes, who has now recorded back-to-back top-10 Premier League finishes for the first time in the club’s history.
Hired to bring about a different brand of football after the Tony Pulis years, he has seamlessly made the necessary alterations without affecting the club’s effectiveness.
The scoreline in no way flattered them as they exploited Liverpool’s weaknesses to the full with wide men Arnautovic and Walters providing the penetration ahead of Nzonzi as the midfield powerhouse.