Monday, 30 April 2018

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke City


Just one of those days
Gregor had got tickets for the Liverpool- Stoke game at Anfield for my birthday present. This was before the game became sandwiched between the Champions League semi-final games against Roma. Anfield has been transformed by the new Main stand with the public realm surrounding the stadium encouraging a happy atmosphere as a phalanx of fans from all over the world gathered to watch their team.

Last time I was at Anfield was in 1973 to watch an Inter City Fairs cup match against Spurs, Liverpool won 1-0 and we drove back to Glasgow overnight in the days before the M74 was built. I had spent two years as a fairly regular spectator at Anfield whilst at University. It was during a period when both Liverpool and Everton were dominating the game. Everton had the school of science midfield with Kendall, Harvey and Ball whilst Liverpool were at the start of their two decades of dominance. Kendall had been a Preston North End player and the youngest cup finalist in 1964. Liverpool also had an old school friend Brian Hall as well as Peter Thomson, a winger who also had played for Preston North End before transferring to the reds.

Everton won the league for the seventh time in 1970 to equal Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United on seven titles in the first division. Liverpool were about to take over and they had won 18 titles by the end of 1980's. It was easy to see how with Ray Clemence, Tommy Smith, Emlyn Hughes, Ian Callaghan, Steve Heighway and John Toshack providing ruthlessness and power to add to the skill of the Preston lads.

Liverpool were wonderful to watch in the 1970's with a hard pressing game that Klopp has revived. The crowd always combined raw passion with humour, as when they gave Gary Sprake a rousing reception every year after a game when he threw the ball into his own net. During most games, at least one spectator would be passed down over the heads of the Kop crowd to the St John's Ambulance. There was always respect and applause for good play from opposition players. It was so different from what I witnessed at other grounds at the time from Hillsborough to Old Trafford to Ibrox.

Despite the wonderful season that Liverpool had been having, this was not a game to relish. Stoke are deep into a relegation battle and decided to snuff out Mo Salah by any means possible and in that sense, Erik Pieters did a good job. But Liverpool were playing well within themselves, saving energy and avoiding injuries before the second leg with Roma. The crowd were in fine voice but even they realised that this was not going to be a classic and the game eventually petered out. Alexander-Arnold was completely at sea in a midfield role, Moreno gave his usual reckless performance, Henderson reverted to square passing and Ings showed that he lacks the pace to play in this team. Even the ever reliable Roberto Firmino was not his usual dynamic self.

Nevetheless we had enjoyed the atmosphere, we bumped into the programme editor who took a photo of me standing next to Shankley's statue and, as we were leaving, we were highly amused that the nearby Chinese takeaway was titled 'Wok On'.

Kick off looking towards the Kop end
Mo Salah about to take free kick
The massive new Main Stand

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