My Day At The Match: Barcelona at Anfield – May 7th, 2019

My Day At The Match: Barcelona at Anfield – May 7th, 2019
May 10, 2019 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, My Day at the Match

 

By TTT subscriber Jonathan Naylor

My journey starts at just after 11am, when my friend arrives at the local train station. After severe traffic congestion on the way to the Huddersfield game, we decide to leave super early to avoid the stress of the M6 rush hour.

It is a 430-mile round trip from the South East, with motorway for almost 400 of those miles. It isn’t the most interesting journey in the world, and today is the 20th and penultimate trip of the season. But the travelling has its rewards. Most obviously, I’m very aware of how lucky I am to be able to watch this team on a regular basis. Of the 19 Anfield trips so far this season, I’ve seen 17 wins, with only Man City and Bayern leaving with a share of the spoils (spoiler alert – the 20th trip turned out OK as well).

The journey is also a great opportunity to spend some unhurried time with my fellow attendees, whether they are family or friends. Today, me and my friend spend the first part of our trip catching up on developments since our last match, before switching our attention to discussing the game ahead. We both agree that the today’s trip and the one on Sunday to see Wolves will almost certainly see us eliminated from the two remaining competitions we are in. However, if that doesn’t happen, it is difficult to envisage the circumstances where this wouldn’t be the best match we had ever attended in our lives.

We make quick progress and reach the outskirts of Liverpool before 4pm. As we reach the Rocket, we normally try to make sure there is some music from a Liverpool band playing in the car. My favourite track to drive into Liverpool is the Echo & the Bunnymen version of “All you need is love”. Its two Liverpool bands for the price of one, with the Bunnymen cover superior to the Beatles original (Ed – that’s a statement!).

As we are so early, my friend suggests he takes me to the “Ye Cracke”, a pub just off Hope Street. It’s a fascinating historic pub, with links to John Lennon. He tells me the story of the War Room in the pub, created by the landlord so that people who wanted to discuss the Boer War didn’t impact the rest of the pub. I’m on soft drinks so I can’t comment on the beer selection, but the ambience is to be recommended.

We drive back towards Anfield, park and go for a quick drink in the Albert before entering the stadium…

The game is a bit of a blur to be honest. The first goal is greeted with huge cheers and shouts of “we can do this”. Gini’s quick fire double sees the Main Stand break out into a maelstrom of hugs. We have a great view as TAA sets up Origi for the fourth; it almost gets too much for me, my head is spinning, and I need to sit down sharpish. Then the dread takes over – a goal for Barcelona means this is a glorious failure. I resolve not to look at the clock again until the final whistle, but we don’t suffer any major alarms. Some of the play to win fouls, keep the ball, gain territory etc. warms by heart and shows the street smarts we are gradually learning.

We normally sprint off at the final whistle to avoid the worst of the traffic. But today there is no way we are missing anything. As the players start to finally leave the pitch, George sticks on “Imagine” by John Lennon. For about 3 seconds, I’m thinking this is a bit too cheesy, then we are joining in with a mass sing along. Then more hugs on the way out of Anfield.

My phone is buzzing with texts from all around the world. Family and friends thousands of miles away feeling some extra connection to the match knowing I was there. I see a video clip of my cousin’s boy celebrating while wearing my son’s first Liverpool top from 13 years ago – it feels like the torch has been passed to the next generation.

On the way home afterwards, I’m struggling to remember all that happened or the sequence it happened in. I’ve seen us win the league and win cup finals but nothing to compare to this. To my mind, this has to be in with a shout as the greatest ever Liverpool match at Anfield. Three-nil down to the number one ranked team in Europe, with possibly the best player of all time in their ranks. And with two of our famed front three missing.

As we drive through the night, we talk about the individual performances of the team. Nobody played badly, and there are many candidates for man of the match. Henderson – what a dominant midfield performance (not heard a peep from the Hendo critics in recent games). Allison – how many saves did he make? Origi and Gini – fast becoming the most expected source of unexpected crucial goals. Fabinho – broke everything up, made tackle after tackle while on a yellow card. Mane – unreal speed, strength, stamina and trickery. Milner – the old head to keep us on track. Matip/VVD – excellent again. And lastly Trent – great defensively then tops it off by doing that.

Fuelled by adrenaline and podcasts, we get home by around 3:30am, still with stupid grins on our faces.

*Bonus – and retro – MDATM!

My Day at the Match, QPR (28th April, 1990) and Derby (1st May, 1990)

[Pieced together from memory, subject to inaccuracies due to the mists of time]

We get the 86 bus from Mossley Hill, hoping to get to Anfield before 1pm. The bus always seems to take forever to meander across Liverpool, but we eventually arrive in good time.

It is £4 to get on the Kop. With the exception of Man Utd and Everton games, its pay at the turnstile – but you can’t leave it too near kick off as the “Full” signs will then appear.

There is a chance we can win our 18th league title today. There are 3 games to go and Aston Villa are the only remaining challengers.

One of the consequences of the Kop being full hours before kick-off is that the players coming out for their warm up is a major event. Most players have their own songs, and the atmosphere really steps up from 230pm.

The game is a microcosm of the season. QPR take the lead, and our performance is not that impressive. But we manage to turn it round without any great drama – first a fine finish from a narrow angle from Ian Rush (past David Seaman in pre-pony tale days). Then a slightly fortuitous penalty converted by John Barnes (queue rendition of “Spunky, Spunky What’s the Score?” to David Seaman).

Then, as the match is starting to draw to a close, the news spreads across the Kop like wildfire that Norwich are holding Villa. In pre-mobile phone days, the odd supporters with a transistor radio become the official oracles. The final whistle goes, the celebrations begin as the players start their lap of honour. It turns out later that the Villa match was still going on, so the title party is a bit premature – but no harm done.

The trophy is presented the following Tuesday after the game versus Derby. I’m determined to get in – to be on the safe side, we arrive at Anfield mid-afternoon. I’m literally the first person in the queue for the Kop. Some of my mates are more blasé, preferring to go to a concert than the match. They can always go when we win it next year, or if not the year after.

The match is fairly uneventful, mainly notable for Kenny’s last appearance in a Liverpool team before retirement. Gary Gillespie scores a late winner past Peter Shilton. Alan Hansen then gets presented the trophy and the Reds parade it around the 4 sides of Anfield, watched by just over 38,000 supporters. It is an enjoyable but suitably low-key end to a low-key game and low-key title win.

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