For a number of years it had been really bugging me that I’d never visited Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC. I’ve supported them since I was a kid and had seen them play a couple of times previously, but never at Anfield strangely.

Recently I decided enough was enough, so I got in touch with my buddy Ronan who put the wheels in motion. We were offered tickets to the Crystal Palace game on November 8th and we snapped them up. Not only would it be my first Anfield visit, it would also be an opportunity to see Jürgen Klopp, the club’s new manager (see my recent post about him).

 

Match day at Liverpool FC

I first visited Liverpool in 2009 and got a great feel for the place. I returned in 2014 for my friend’s stag party and it truly was a weekend to remember! Stepping off the train from London last week, everything immediately looked very familiar. Liverpool isn’t an enormous city, so it’s pretty easy to get around by foot. You can find your bearings very quickly by looking for familiar buildings or landmarks.

We didn’t waste any time and headed down to the ground so we could take a stroll around it. The first thing I noticed was the progress being made on the Main Stand. It’s gonna be impressive!

The new stand is well underway
The new stand is well underway

 

We then decided to go drop in to a pub for a pre-match pint. We chose the Flat Iron, as it’s close to the ground but not too close – so there weren’t any queues to get in. The Flat Iron appears to have strong Irish connections, which I liked. For example, the signs above the toilets say ‘Fir’ and ‘Mná’ (Irish for ‘Men’ and ‘Ladies’). There was a great atmosphere in here ahead of the game and tons of Liverpool FC memorabilia to look at.

Next we headed into the ground to take our seats. Turns out we had good tickets – I took this article’s title photo from my seat! You can see a load of photographers near the dugouts in that shot, which is because former club captain Steven Gerrard was home from L.A. and attending the game. My first experience of hearing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ sung at Anfield was definitely one to remember.

 

The game

The only letdown of the day was the result of course. Liverpool started sluggishly and Palace seemed really up for it right from kick-off, which paid off when Yannick Bolasie scored after 21 minutes. Adam Lallana seemed reluctant to commit to challenges at times, something which I hadn’t yet picked up from watching on TV. The Palace goal spurred Liverpool’s best spell of the game in my opinion; the remainder of the first half. They dominated possession and created some good chances, which eventually paid off in the form of Philippe Coutinho’s close-range equaliser after 42 minutes. I seriously hope the club manage to hold on to him in the upcoming January transfer window.

Palace came out stronger in the second half; their belief that they could win the game was clear. Liverpool did continue to create chances but unfortunately couldn’t convert any. I recently read that in terms of goal attempt conversions, Liverpool’s record this season is the Premier League’s worst. Luis Suárez is still sorely missed and ‘sick note’ Sturridge needs to start eating his Weetabix, clearly. Scott Dann headed home the third and decisive goal for Palace after 82 minutes.

Disappointingly, the third goal seemed to take the wind out of Liverpool’s sails – and that of some of the fans, for that matter. It was a shame to see so many leave the ground with eight minutes left to play. Anything can happen in the last eight minutes of a game – it didn’t on this occasion, but sometimes a never-say-die attitude from the crowd can make all the difference. I’m reminded of the following comment from Luis Garcia after “that night” in Istanbul:

“We were sitting in the dressing room and we could clearly hear thousands of fans singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Can you imagine how that felt? We were 3-0 down in the Champions League final and all we could hear were 45,000 people letting us know they still believed in us. We knew they had endured a long journey and made so many sacrifices to be there. It was at that point we started to believe too.”

Enough said.

Looking at the stats briefly, Liverpool created 22 attempts on goal, of which just four were on target. Pretty dismal compared with Palace’s four on target from just nine attempts. Clearly the Reds are pressing well, but the lack of killer instinct and/or precision up front is worrying.

A disappointing result, but it was great to observe Klopp on the sideline. The man has ridiculous amounts of energy and seems to live every moment of every match his team is involved in. He spoke afterwards about his disappointment at seeing fans leaving early. This never used to happen while he was at Borussia Dortmund and hopefully he can encourage more of a ‘stay to the end’ mentality with all of the Liverpool FC faithful.

 

I’ll be back

Shame about the result obviously, but my first Anfield experience didn’t let me down. I’m hoping to get back at least once a year now. Hopefully the Reds can get back into the Champions League soon so I can experience one of those legendary European nights at the home of Liverpool FC. With the Main Stand finished and almost 10,000 more supporters in the ground, it will be some atmosphere.