THEY arrived desperate for the season to end. They left wishing it was only just beginning.
Liverpool FC supporters were rewarded for their loyalty by Kenny Dalglish’s side saving their best home performance for last as they exacted a modicum of revenge for FA Cup final defeat against Chelsea.
But, as at Wembley four days earlier, their revival has come far, far too late to atone for previous misdemeanours.
No wonder the fans witnessing Liverpool’s traditional end-of-season lap of honour were left wondering just how many would be seen again at Anfield.
Chief among those is Dalglish himself. The manager’s name was chanted loudly by the Kop, but it will be principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner who now pass final judgement on a season of desperate underachievement in the Premier League.
At least it ended on a high with comprehensive victory over a Chelsea second-string. A Michael Essien own goal, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Agger all netted inside seven first-half minutes, with Jonjo Shelvey’s first league goal ensuring Ramires’s second successive goal against Liverpool was mere consolation.
Almost definitely saying their farewells were Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt, the former pointedly waving goodbye before being replaced by the latter during the second half.
They won’t be the only ones, as the Anfield outfit seek to address the shortcomings that have meant winning only six of their 19 home league games, their worst-ever tally since being relegation from the top flight in 1954.
It has been all too easy to determine where Liverpool’s main failing has been, with last night’s flurry sparing them the ignominy of registering the lowest total of home goals in the club’s history, and retaining hope of finishing above neighbours Everton after Sunday’s final round of fixtures.
There were reminders of what had gone before; Stewart Downing missed a penalty – a club-record seventh time Liverpool had failed from the spot this season – and again the woodwork was rattled.
Similar to Wembley, the biggest winner last night was Andy Carroll, the striker producing another indomitable display to leave a significant calling card ahead of Roy Hodgson naming his England squad for the forthcoming Euro 2012 finals.
In stark contrast, a miserable Fernando Torres barely had a touch on his first return to Anfield following his acrimonious departure in January 2011.
Any sense of scores being settled after Wembley was dulled when two much-altered team-sheets were handed in.
Although Chelsea were still in with a shout of Champions League qualification through finishing fourth, their line-up suggested they believed the task beyond them, Roberto di Matteo instead focusing on their forthcoming European Cup final date in Munich.
Only Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry and Ramires – all suspended for the Champions League final against Bayern Munich – were retained from the FA Cup final line-up.