Liverpool 2 Aston Villa 1
David O'Leary still has the memories of one particular final- day- of- the- season Anfield climax to sustain him long into his dotage.
But, on an afternoon when events elsewhere ensured this game would be an almost meaningless sideshow, this was never destined to be another memorable trip to Merseyside for O'Leary.
Aston Villa were lucky enough not to have been playing against many of the Liverpool side likely to line up for the Champions' League final in Istanbul in nine days' time.
However, even Rafael Benitez's second-string selection, one or two of whom may still have their sights on a starting place against AC Milan, were sufficiently motivated to beat a Villa side for whom the season has effectively been over for weeks.
Admittedly, having found themselves trailing to Djibril Cisse's first-half double, Villa put up a surprisingly spirited performance after the break - once they had changed to a less-negative formation.
But all the visitors had to show for it was Gareth Barry's eighth goal of the season and that was not enough to stop Villa finishing only in tenth place on 47 points.
Nine points fewer than last year, four places lower and, perhaps the most eye-opening statistic, the second-lowest Premiership points total they have collected in the 13 years of the competition's existence.
"We had them on the rack in the second half," said O'Leary, with a typical sense of over-indulgence, in praise of a post-interval improvement that was merely better than their first-half display.
Then again, the Villa boss is a man renowned for fooling himself. If not the fans. O'Leary still sees this season as one of "consolidation".
But, as far as most Villa fans are concerned, merely finishing Midland top dogs ahead of Birmingham City is not really that much to text anyone about.
Liverpool had already gone close before they went in front, a storming run into the box by man-of-the-moment Jamie Carragher having ended with a shot into the side-netting from the Reds' inspirational stand- in skipper.
But their opening goal was still a bit of a bolt from the blue, the more so as it was totally avoidable.
Thomas Sorensen might have been disappointed that he could only fumble Harry Kewell's shot. What followed his slip-up was not a whole lot better.
The ball spun off Sorensen towards the corner flag, Cisse was first to react and Mark Delaney clumsily brought him down.
"They haven't really done anything and then we've given them a goal," O'Leary said. "And you can't do that at Anfield."
Sorensen went the right way but Cisse's penalty was too good for him and after Sorensen had reacted well to block Mauricio Pellegrino's back-flick, Cisse struck for a second time.
Josemi made a jinking run to the byline, pulled the ball back for Cisse and the Frenchman blasted home from close range.
Kewell might have done better just before half-time after latching on to Cisse's stunning long ball, firing just over the bar but Darius Vassell finally showed signs that Villa might yet be a force in this game by producing his side's first attacking threat just before the break.
Although Sorensen had to deny Antonio Nunez at the start of the second half, Villa were then suddenly the ones looking the more likely to score.
Liverpool's young goalkeeper, Scott Carson, had to save with his legs again from Vassell and it was no real surprise when Barry smashed in his seventh Premiership goal of the season from close range.
Player-of-the-season Nolberto Solano also went close with a curler just over the bar but Liverpool's second string managed to pick themselves up and should have added some gloss to the final score.
Cisse's attempt to complete his hat-trick from 25 yards was foiled by Sorensen's fulllength save and John Arne Riise went even closer from distance, clipping the top of the bar.
At 2-1, Villa were still in it but their final chance to end the season on that high was foiled in injury time when Steve Davis fired a late free kick just past the upright.
By the , few of the audience really cared, especially not the inhabitants of a press box equipped with portable televisions and full of far too many journalists understandably distracted by a day of astonishing tension and drama elsewhere.
Scorers: Cisse (pen, 19) 1-0, (25) 2-0; Barry (68) 2-1.
LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Carson; Josemi, Carragher, Pellegrino, Warnock; Nunez ( Finnan, 79), Alonso, Biscan (Hamann, 70), Riise; Kewell (Baros, 60), Cisse. Subs: Dudek (gk), Hyypia.
ASTON VILLA (4-5-1): Sorensen; De La Cruz, Laursen, Delaney, Barry; Solano, Davis, Dejemba-Djemba, Hendrie (Samuel, 48), Vassell (L Moore, h/t); Angel (Cole, 64). Subs: Henderson (gk), McCann.
Referee: B Knight (Orpington, Kent). Attendance: 43,406.
Villa man of the match: Gareth Barry - ended the season on a high.