Celebration of the 96 Charity Match: Liverpool Locals vs. Internationals Report

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IApril 21, 2014

Liverpool fans were out in force for the match.
Liverpool fans were out in force for the match.Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Liverpool concluded a week of remembrance marking the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster with a special one-off charity football match between club legends past and present.

A fantastic afternoon's entertainment ended in a 2-2 draw on Monday to send everyone home happy.

The official club website noted that a huge number of players who have donned the famous red shirt were more than happy to play in the “Liverpool Locals vs. Internationals” game. This Twitter user noted her excitement at the lineup:

The Chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall, told Helen Davies of the Liverpool Echo:

This is a nice way to celebrate the lives of the 96 [...]. It will give everyone the chance to have a really good day, especially the families before they go back into the inquests on Tuesday.

The club has been absolutely amazing since we first approached them about doing something.

For such a momentous tribute, played as it was on a Bank Holiday Monday, it was obvious that the Merseyside public would come out in droves. Natasha Maguder of CNN was another looking forward to the proceedings:

And so it was that a sun-drenched and packed Anfield Stadium greeted managers Kenny Dalglish and Gerard Houllier and their teams as they made their way onto the pitch.

As you might expect for an event of such magnitude for the locale, the atmosphere was electric and emotionally charged. In a fitting gesture, all the players were wearing No. 96 on the backs of their shirts, per Neil Macdonald of the Liverpool Echo

Before proceedings got underway, a minute's applause for the victims of the disaster was immaculately observed.

Brendan Rodgers and the entire first-team squad were also in attendance to pay their respects.

A rousing rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Jack Topping further set the tone as cries of "We're gonna win the league!" reverberated around the magnificent old stadium. The last duty before the game got underway was a photo.

As you might expect with players of such stature, age may have wearied them but skill hasn't deserted them.

Despite being booed when he entered the pitch, Michael Owen continued to have a smile on his face, and the jeers turned to cheers.

A few early half-chances for either side came and went, and it was Owen who came closest to opening the scoring for the local legends, heading onto the bar from a pinpoint Gary McAllister cross.

Some silky skills from Jari Litmanen almost produced a goal for the Internationals, but Luis Garcia shot straight at David James after receiving the Dutchman's lovely through ball.

Robbie Fowler, affectionately still known as "God" on the red half of Merseyside, had already stung the fingertips of Sander Westerveld, with Liverpool Echo journalist Neil Jones noting his prowess:

It wasn't long before Jones was proved right.

It was a goal the former Anfield marksman clearly enjoyed.

And it proved to be the difference between the two sides at half-time. 

The Internationals had certainly played their part in an entertaining 45 minutes, and the match was finely poised at the break.

Before the second half was underway, a penalty shootout involving TV personalities kept the crowd entertained. BBC's Clare Balding was just one to fire in a spot-kick in front of the Kop.

Huge cheers greeted the introduction of legends Ian Rush, Phil Thompson, Ronnie Whelan and John Aldridge, but it was the Internationals who immediately struck back once the second half was underway.

Dietmar Hamann's cutback to Vladimir Smicer saw the Czech take a pot shot that took a wild deflection off Michael Thomas as it made its way into the net, making it 1-1.

Injecting a note of comedy into the proceedings, comedian John Bishop was allowed to enter the field for Garcia.

And he was immediately booked.

Unbelievably, despite the roll call of talent on the field, it was Bishop to the fore as his rasper rattled the upright only to land at the feet of Bruno Cheyrou, who made no mistake.

Another round of substitutions followed as tired legs began to take their toll, and with Michael Owen restored to the legends' attack, they looked the more threatening.

Owen himself had already gone for glory from the halfway line before slipping in Aldridge, the latter just not quick enough to poke home and level the scores.

As the clock wound down, David Burrows inexplicably gave away a penalty, and the crowd only wanted one person to take it:

Some ribbing from the crowd no doubt contributed to Bishops' poor effort, saved by David James.

Into the last minute (and as often happens on these sorts of occasions), goals are contrived from somewhere.

Fowler was brought down by Sami Hyypia, giving the legends a chance to equalise with the final kick of the match.

Kenny Dalglish removed his tracksuit to reveal his full kit and stepped onto the pitch to rapturous applause.

It would be a fitting end for the manager at the time of the Hillsborough disaster to round off the day.

However, the Scot decided against it, leaving Fowler to score his second, leaving the final score 2-2.

Margaret Aspinall was given a standing ovation as she addressed the crowd, per the Liverpool Echo:

I'd just like to say thank you to the legends of Liverpool. I thank you all sincerely for everything you've done today.

It's been a great day and yet again the sun has shined on us. Liverpool for the league? Yes!

At the conclusion of the day, both teams went on a hugely well-received lap of honour.

It was a fantastic end to a day the whole of Liverpool will remember and a fitting tribute to those 96 people who lost their lives.  

Such a positive gathering can only enhance the work Margaret Aspinall and others continue to do behind the scenes, and the search for truth and justice for the 96 is almost a reality thanks to their tireless campaigning over the years.

The annual coming together of the community provides a positive remembrance for those who didn't come home and ensures that they will never be forgotten.   


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