One of the most thrilling campaigns in Liverpool's recent history drew to a close on Sunday as the division's great entertainers were forced to settle for second place. Here's our review of a season which will be talked about for years to come...
Had they been asked to engage their imagination to maximum capacity and foretell how Liverpool's season - just the second under the stewardship of Brendan Rodgers - might unfold, Hollywood scriptwriters would have found it difficult to conjure a more thrilling and dynamic vision than the reality which played out across nine exhilarating months.
Back in August 2013, the pre-season chatter was centred primarily on the Champions League and specifically the Reds' chances of working their way back into the Barclays Premier League top four, gratefully grasping the prize of a return to the elite competition of European football, in which they had not participated for five years.
The manager had continued renovations to his squad, with no less than eight new faces walking into Melwood before the summer transfer window concluded. A considerable number of individuals departed on a permanent basis, meanwhile, and the club utilised the loan system to strong benefit in terms of temporary outgoings.
In contrast to his fledgling months at the helm, when Rodgers had to plot and plan around international tournaments and Europa League qualifiers, the Northern Irishman thrived on the opportunity to further instil his philosophy, his approach and his wisdom into a small but versatile group that collectively boasted an important attribute - hunger.
Pre-season preparations took Liverpool from Preston to Indonesia, Australia to Thailand and Norway to Dublin, with a fitting testimonial to the captain, Steven Gerrard, held in between. Six consecutive victories, with the concession of just a single goal, were latterly halted with defeat by Celtic in a friendly that proved most pertinent for the return of Daniel Sturridge.
The striker had suffered an injury on international duty at the close of the previous campaign but took advantage of his natural fitness to exceed all medical expectations and become available for selection when the action kicked off on August 17 with what appeared to be a tricky opening encounter against Stoke City at Anfield.
So it proved, as a rasping, low drive into the far corner from Sturridge offered the only breakthrough despite a dominant, synchronised performance by the hosts on a bright day in L4. It was at the other end of the field where the true drama occurred, however - new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet sprawled to his right in the final minute to palm away a Jonathan Walters spot-kick and preserve the positive atmosphere.
With Luis Suarez unavailable for selection for six fixtures, the Reds' No.15 assumed the goalscoring mantle with aplomb; an exhibition of close control and finishing downed Aston Villa, a clinical brace saw off Notts County in the Capital One Cup and a poacher's header at the far post was enough for Rodgers' charges to narrowly overcome Manchester United on the day that the club paused to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of Bill Shankly's birth.
Injuries ushered in a switch to 3-5-2 by the boss, although his side initially stumbled, suffering a 1-0 loss on home soil to a well-organised and slick Southampton before undeservedly bowing out of the cup by the same scoreline at Old Trafford. The team had travelled to Manchester with their Uruguayan talisman once again in the ranks, though, and the unstoppable partnership known as 'SAS' would soon be unleashed.
Sturridge and Suarez struck nine of Liverpool's 10 goals between them as Sunderland, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion were successively overturned, while it was a prime example of the fundamental understanding between the prolific duo that salvaged a 2-2 draw for the Reds when they journeyed north to take on Newcastle United in between times.
Runaway leaders Arsenal quelled the Kopites' flow at the outset of November but the month was ultimately highlighted by a Merseyside derby at Goodison Park which captured the attention of the world. The visitors led twice but eventually found themselves trailing with mere seconds remaining on the clock; step up Sturridge, on as a substitute, who leaped high inside the area to meet a perfectly delivered Gerrard set-piece - a recurring motif in 2013-14 - and nod home an equaliser.
A frustrating away defeat by Hull City followed, but confidence was in no way sapped by the result on Humberside. For, just three days later, Norwich City were obliterated by the Suarez show at Anfield, with the No.7 smashing home a quartet of outstanding strikes, including a breath-taking, 40-yard looping volley that soared into the Kop end net and later scooped the club's Goal of the Season accolade.
From there, he, and by extension his team, were suddenly unstoppable. Three individual braces were achieved by the forward as West Ham United surrendered, Tottenham Hotspur were totally dismantled at White Hart Lane, and Cardiff City failed to stop the table-toppers, leaving Liverpool at the summit of the Premier League when Christmas presents were being unwrapped on December 25.
Next on the agenda was an imposing double-header in the form of ties at rivals Manchester City and Chelsea in the space of three days. Both encounters ended in a negative result for the Reds, but both in unfortunate circumstances, particularly at the Etihad Stadium, as Rodgers effectively flexed his tactical muscles without due reward. But it would be 119 days before his team were bemoaning a loss in the division again.
Liverpool 1-0 Stoke City
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An element of revenge was exacted on Hull as 2013 became 2014. It was not just the year that was changing, however, but the set-up of the manager's players; Gerrard was transformed into a controlling, defensive midfielder, Philippe Coutinho evolved into an-all action central warrior, Raheem Sterling began to produce displays which would move his boss to later describe the No.31 as 'the best young player in Europe', and Jon Flanagan was suddenly among the first names on the teamsheet.
And now the goals really started to flow. Any semblance of the Britannia Stadium being a bogey ground for the Reds was destroyed by a five-goal haul and three points, and the league's entertainers were at it again when neighbours Everton conducted the short trip across Stanley Park. A towering header by the captain paved the way for a Sturridge double and a solo effort by Suarez on a crisp evening when the electric feedback between players and fans took hold.
It was evident on February 8 too, a landmark date in Liverpool's season. The high-flying and in-form Gunners were the visitors, but any notion of a contest at Anfield was eradicated by four unanswered goals inside 20 minutes, as Arsenal struggled to contain the speed, creativity and work-rate of a side that were the definition of what Rodgers had been attempting to implement since his appointment little more than 18 months earlier. The scoreline was 5-1 at the final whistle.
Remarkably, that result heralded an 11-match winning streak, catapulting the Reds from Champions League qualification contention to favourites for the Premier League title. Arsenal, Fulham, Swansea City, Southampton, United, Cardiff, Sunderland, Tottenham, West Ham, Manchester City, Norwich - all beaten. Supporters were now daring to dream as the possibility of a first championship in 24 years loomed larger as the fixture list grew smaller.
Gerrard was at the centre of everything; the winner at Craven Cottage, two converted spot-kicks at Old Trafford, a crucial free-kick over Sunderland, two more nerve-testing penalties to secure three points at the expense of the Hammers - all just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the 33-year-old's contribution. His was the spine-tingling rallying cry within moments of a stunning 3-2 victory over City, courtesy of Coutinho's sublime decider, that was perhaps the match of the season.
With the level of passion from the club's 'army of supporters' - a fine turn of phrase by Rodgers - reaching a crescendo for the visit of Chelsea, it was therefore the cruellest fate imaginable that the captain should experience the misfortune which presented Demba Ba with an opportunity to put the Londoners in front at Anfield and eventually halt their relentless record with a display that denied the hosts the freedom to express their brilliant best.
Asked to rouse themselves for a trip to a rejuvenated and dangerous Palace, the spark was back and with an hour played at Selhurst Park, the travellers had racked up a 3-0 advantage and sensed further strikes. In a prime advertisement of the strength within the Premier League, however, Tony Pulis' men clawed back, registering three times in 10 scarcely believable minutes to snatch a draw and all but hand control of the title destiny to City.
Nevertheless, the dream of Gerrard collecting the one trophy to so far elude him in a glittering career remained within reach when the football got underway on the season finale. Rodgers' side did their bit, recovering from a first-half deficit to ultimately down Newcastle 2-1. But the news filtering through from the Etihad Stadium was negative - City had succeeded in their objective and were crowned champions. As the Reds set off on a deserved lap of honour, though, there was an unmistakable air of positivity inside Anfield.
'We go again' demanded the captain throughout his speech to the players on April 13, inadvertently sparking a social media mantra, with the phrase developing into a go-to shorthand for how this young, thrilling team approach every single fixture. It is a mentality shared by the man who has overseen it all; the Northern Irishman commented: "The supporters have been allowed to dream this year and they will be able to continue doing that because we are going to get better."