London: It was not meant to be this way.
Steven Gerrard disconsolately trudged off an English Premier League pitch for the final time after his beloved Liverpool were battered 6-1 at Stoke City, their worst top-flight defeat since 1963.
At least the 34-year-old, who leaves for Los Angeles Galaxy having been the heartbeat of Anfield for 15 years, managed a goal on the final day of the season.
It was a typical Gerrard goal, a low composed finish from an iconic player even rival fans have been applauding during the closing weeks of the campaign.
The strike was his 186th Liverpool goal after 710 appearances, the most famous of which came when he inspired his boyhood club to Champions League glory in 2005 after AC Milan had been 3-0 up at halftime.
"I am sure Steven wasn`t anticipating the manner of that being his last performance, but credit to him he was trying to drive his team on and it was great he got that reception from our supporters when he scored," Stoke boss Mark Hughes told the BBC.
"It is only right and proper we recognise the impact he has had in English football and at his club as well. Everyone applauded that goal. He has been a credit to his country and his club."
The former England captain has made it clear he would like to return to Liverpool in some capacity once his two years at Galaxy are up but there could be a managerial vacancy before then.
Liverpool, so close to the title last term before selling goal-machine Luis Suarez in the close season, limped in sixth for a Europa League berth and fans are beginning to question boss Brendan Rodgers.
"To start with, it`s an apology. I think everybody, all the supporters connected with Liverpool, will -- like us all -- be embarrassed by that and they deserve an apology," said Rodgers, who left Raheem Sterling on the bench amid reports he wants to leave.
Another man on the move is Manchester City`s Frank Lampard, also on the way to the MLS with New York City FC after 609 Premier League games.
He, too, signed off from England with yet another goal but that was in a 2-0 win over Southampton as the former Chelsea stalwart was made captain for the day.
"I think I`ve had a lot of opportunities to talk about Chelsea, but I have turned up here at age of 36, I didn`t know what to expect, from the dressing room and the fans and living in this city, and all I can say is thank you so, so much to everybody," he told the crowd.
Sergio Aguero ended up Premier League top scorer with 26 goals for second-placed City and boss Manuel Pellegrini said he expected to stay as manager despite the lack of a trophy this term for last season`s champions.