6th November 2023
Full-capacity Anfield treated to an entertaining afternoon as Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher & co reunite for LFC Foundation. The Reds’ highest all-time penalty taker, Gerrard, resumed his responsibility as he provided a first-half lead, only to be cancelled out by Giovanni & Rivaldo’s goals on either side of the interval.
12 years ago, I attended Carragher’s Testimonial, with Anfield only 78% full. Contrastingly, Saturday’s Legends match was sold out. Why? The “Klopp effect”. What is this? It’s the way Jürgen Klopp gives all the players the opportunity to show off their talent and revel in it. The whole team looks and feels confident – and people want to see it.
Gerrard led The Reds out, with Carragher, Sami Hyypia & Daniel Agger forming a central defensive trio. The former two hold the record for consecutive matches without conceding (11). Luis Garcia (who would play for both sides) and Dirk Kuyt would provide the goal threat.
Rivaldo & Javier Saviola (who both scored on The Road to Istanbul), in addition to Edgar Davids, Juliano Belletti, Ludovic Giuly and Gaizka Mendieta were the names I recognised amongst the Barça team sheet.
The Reds broke the deadlock just before the half-hour mark. Kuyt detected Gerrard with a slide-rule pass. The Aston Villa manager arrived at the ball before Edmilson, dropped his shoulder & drew the foul. Trademark movement. Gerrard sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, from 12 yards. Minimum fuss.
Garcia then headed off-target from a Fábio Aurélio delivery and 55-year-old Jesús Angoy impressively tipped over a curled, looping effort from Kuyt. When Barça was awarded a free-kick, Carragher hilariously acted as the draft excluder; an invention he would ridicule “today’s players” for. Earlier, he’d managed to keep a stray pass in play. He’d shuck his fists at The Kop and was greeted with a big cheer.
Giovanni would breach the defensive line and levelled at half-time – a hammer blow and disappointing for Sander Westerveld. His footwork was excellent but unfortunately, no clean sheet.
Ten alterations were made for the second half, with Gerrard the only survivor.
Giovanni turned creator, as he was upended by Phil Babb in the penalty area. This did mean, however, Dudek could bring out his “wobbly legs”. Unfortunately, Rivaldo was unfazed and dispatched his spot-kick into the roof of the net.
The most presentable opportunity for an equaliser fell to Milan Baroš. Initially, Gerrard beat Frédéric Déhu to the knock-down, for a cross from Vladimír Šmicer. A combination of indecision and rearguard action meant Baroš didn’t manage to force the ball over the line. Gerrard then released Baroš again, who was thwarted by Guzmán.
Jason McAteer was no match for Garcia in a foot race, but the latter dragged his effort wide. Man of the match, Agger, produced a heroic slide tackle to deny Garcia. From the subsequent corner, Roberto Trashorras’ header struck the underside of the crossbar, with Dudek left helpless. Although, he quickly saved a sweeping shot from Oriol Riera.
Cancer survivor José Enrique whipped in a ball Andy Robertson would have been proud of, but Kuyt headed wide. That was the moment. Gerrard had one last drive from range, but Guzmán comfortably palmed the ball away. Disappointment, but as Sir Kenny Dalglish tweeted, “charity is the real winner”.