Like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard said farewell to English football with a goal, but unlike the Liverpool captain’s it was the decisive one, not a consolation in a humiliation.
Watched by his father, Frank Snr, who had propelled so much of his early career, Lampard departed to a standing ovation having scored the 259th goal of his club career in his 882nd match.
Even if you take away the trophies that have littered his career, those are astonishing statistics for any midfielder.
The goal was a familiar one; a low cross from James Milner that was finished off by Lampard ghosting in from nowhere. He was wearing the captain’s armband, he was voted man of the match and, although he had said he expected no tears with his goodbyes, it was emotional.
In contrast to Gerrard’s departure, however, it was also restrained and understated. At the end, his family came on to the pitch to present him with a shirt recording his number of Premier League appearances. It was the kind of goodbye Chelsea could and should have given him this time last year.
His manager, Manuel Pellegrini, is not one for the theatrical side of football, but perhaps there was meaning to all of his substitutions.
Yaya Toure and Milner, who are likely to accompany Lampard out of the Etihad Stadium, were each given opportunities to be applauded off.
There was one final charge down the middle from Toure, dragging four Southampton defenders in his wake, and Milner displayed a familiar combination of industry and inventiveness.
Given the failures that City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, has suffered in the transfer market, they might take some replacing.
Against a drilled Southampton who had discomfited many an opponent this term, City played as if on another level. Some of their passing was stunning in its precision.
If only they had done it more often they might have finished closer than eight points behind the champions Chelsea.
Twelve months ago, the crowd had spilled on to the pitch as City won the title; this time there were just individual awards to hand out: the Premier League’s Golden Glove for Joe Hart and the Golden Boot for Sergio Aguero, who nodded in City’s second from even closer range than Lampard.
They had the individual awards but Pellegrini pointed out that Chelsea won the league because they had not lost “easy points”, while City dropped nine against teams that finished in the relegation zone.
Off the field, it has been a hugely significant time for City. The gleaming new training complex stands over the road from a stadium that will have an increased capacity of 55,000 next season.
On the pitch, however, it has been a different story. (© Independent News Service)