At first, Luis Suarez almost appeared to be smiling, in a bemused, rueful, funny-old-game sort of way. And then the final whistle blew and reality hit him. He dissolved in tears and pulled his shirt over his head until nothing of the man was visible. And that is how he stayed, all the way to the tunnel.
Steven Gerrard pushed away the prying eye of the television cameras. The pain was too personal. Now they know how AC Milan must have felt in 2005, or West Ham United at the end of the FA Cup final a year later.
As of 79 minutes, Liverpool were three goals ahead of Crystal Palace, three points ahead of Manchester City and had cut their rivals’ goal-difference advantage to six. Now they could wait in the hope those pale blue eyes would blink.
Bawling: Gerrard tends to an inconsolable Suarez after the final whistle
Can't even look: Reds talisman Suarez breaks down after his side shipped a 3-0 lead
Deflated: Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, a week on from his slip against Chelsea, rues the result
Exaspperation: Daniel Sturridge looks on in anguish after missing a chance on goal
Nine minutes later, the roof had fallen in. Final score Crystal Palace 3 Liverpool 3. Defence, it turns out, is not as easy as Brendan Rodgers made it sound after defeat by Chelsea. If his Liverpool team could defend, they would already be champions. If they could defend, the newly crowned Footballer of the Year would not be hurting so much this morning.
Chelsea’s tilt at the title was decried by those who found their approach negative, but Liverpool have proved equally flawed, albeit in a more palatable way. They were as bad at defending as Chelsea were at attacking. It was overlooked because their attacking game was so beautiful but, ultimately, it is the reason the title seems destined for Manchester again.
Liverpool have conceded five goals in their last two games and 49 over the season. They were hoping to be the worst defence to win the title since Derby County in 1975, but there is a reason champions do not concede approaching 50 goals. No striker can outscore that weakness; not even Suarez, the best player in the land.