A collection of Liverpool legends rolled back the years on Thursday, as they beat a team of Australian soccer icons 4-0 at the ANZ Stadium, Sydney.
In an XI skippered by Steven Gerrard, Luis Garcia gave the Aussie Reds plenty to cheer in the first half, putting his team ahead before the break. Just three minutes after the restart, he notched his second of the day with a neat header, before the club's all-time top scorer Ian Rush got in on the act and John Aldridge rounded off the rout in stoppage time.
The Liverpool Twitter feed gave us a rundown of which players would be taking the field for the Reds ahead of the game, and it was quite a cast of former Anfield stars:
Confirmed #LFCLegends team in Sydney: Westerveld, McAteer, Carragher, Henchoz, Riise, Hamann, Gerrard, Berger, Garcia, Smicer, Fowler.— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 7, 2016
As was evident by the capacity crowd which filled the Melbourne Cricket Ground during a pre-season tour of Australia in 2013, Liverpool have massive support Down Under. And even though this wasn't the first team in action at the ANZ Stadium, the fans once again turned out in big numbers to see some past greats don the iconic all-red strip.
Some sections of the ground could have easily resembled Anfield, as the stadium’s official Twitter feed noted before kick off:
With players at various stages of their retirements and some, like Los Angeles Galaxy man Gerrard, still playing to a high standard, the game did take a while to settle into any sort of rhythm.
But it was clear that with their ex-skipper at the crux of the midfield, Liverpool’s former stars had the edge over their opponents.
Robbie Fowler showed he still possesses some penalty-box instincts with a smart effort early on, while Jamie Carragher was a forceful presence at the base of the team.
As the pressure grew on the Aussie players, a goal became inevitable; and in Garcia, the Reds possessed a player who made a career of popping up at the right time.
After spurning a couple of earlier opportunities, the Spaniard eventually gave the Reds a lead, with Patrik Berger playing him in with a cute reverse pass, before Garcia hammered home a powerful finish.
Although the Liverpool Legends couldn't add to their lead before the interval, there was a sense that it wouldn't be long until more goals came about after the break. And just three minutes into the second half, Garcia was on hand to snatch his second of the match.
This time it was Gerrard who produced an excellent assist, rampaging down the right flank and putting one on a plate for the forward. Here’s a look at the goal, per sportsbet.com.au:
As the game wound down, there were more openings for the Liverpool Legends, with Fowler clearly desperate to find the back of the net. But the Reds introduced another centre-forward with plenty of potency in the penalty area, as we can see here:
Rush may be 54 years old now, but he proved emphatically that the very best strikers don’t lose that nose for goals.
John Arne Riise provided the assist this time after more good work from Gerrard down the left flank and Rush, showing brilliant predatory instincts, got in front of his marker to steer the ball home, much to the delight of the assembled support. Jim Boardman of the Daily Mirror had high praise for the Welshman:
What a goal that was from Rushie! It's like he's never been away! Good build up from the Reds, Gerrard to Riise to Rush. #LFC 3-0 up now.— Jim Boardman (@JimBoardman) January 7, 2016
With the result inevitable from that point, Liverpool started to enjoy themselves, with Gerrard attempting a shot from his own half late on.
But there was still time for one more goal for the Aussie supporters to cheer, as Aldridge tucked home another fine cross from Riise before the referee called time on the contest.
Although the game meant little, it’s wonderful for Liverpool fans all over the world to see these players strut their stuff in front of big crowds once again.
The support for the Reds clearly remains massive all over the globe despite their slump in recent seasons and given some of the stellar names on show in Sydney, it’s easy to see why.
Indeed, with manager Jurgen Klopp currently having to negotiate an injury crisis, there are a couple of these figures who may well feel as though they could do a job when the first team take on Exeter City in the FA Cup on Friday. But turning out in iconic venues like this alongside tremendous players is definitely not a bad way to wind down their playing days.