With their title dreams extinguished, Liverpool F.C.'s players circled the pitch inside Anfield Stadium, heads bowed, to the backdrop of another passionately sung rendition of club anthem ``You'll Never Walk Alone.''
The final match of the Reds' season could have been a celebration of the most unlikely championship triumph in Premier League history.
It ended up being a tale of what might have been.
Liverpool came up short Sunday in its bid for a first league title in 24 years, finishing two points behind champion Manchester City despite a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Newcastle.
Brendan Rodgers' team did their part on what proved to be an anticlimactic last day, passing the 100-goal mark for the league campaign after near-identical strikes in the space of two second-half minutes by Daniel Agger and Daniel Sturridge. That clinched a club-record 26th league victory.
But Liverpool was also relying on a favor from West Ham at Etihad Stadium, which was always unlikely to happen. City won 2-0, keeping the trophy out of Liverpool's grasp.
"My overriding feeling is one of sheer pride in the players,'' Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said.
If there was any frustration inside Rodgers, he hid it well.
For Liverpool had destiny of the title in its hands just three weeks ago, when it beat Norwich 3-2 for an 11th straight win. Then came a decisive nine days when Rodgers' side lost 2-0 at home to Chelsea before conceding three goals in 11 minutes to draw 3-3 at Crystal Palace.
It meant there was more hope than expectation heading into the Newcastle match.
"We finished the season winning 12 games out of 14,'' Rodgers said. ``So the players have shown incredible level of consistency and quality in that period. Over the course of the season to finish second behind Manchester City, we'd prefer to finish top, but it's a great mark of progress this season.''
Anfield has seen previous last-game drama, with Arsenal winning 2-0 here in 1989 thanks to an injury-time goal from Michael Thomas to snatch the title from Liverpool.
Twenty-five years on, Journey's famous song ``Don't Stop Believin''' blared out before kickoff. But all hope among Liverpool was gone by halftime, with their team 1-0 down thanks to Martin Skrtel's own goal in the 20th minute and City having virtually guaranteed finishing first by going 1-0 up against West Ham.
After a poor first half, Liverpool steeled itself to finish the season on a high, with captain Steven Gerrard crossing for