Match Report: Liverpool's Legends
A packed Anfield was treated to an entertaining afternoon as the Liverpool Local Legends took on the International Legends in an encounter which ended 2-2, with the goals coming via a brace from Robbie Fowler, a Michael Thomas own goal, and Bruno Cheyrou.
It was very much a game of two halves as Kenny Dalglish’s Local Legends had the majority of the chances in the first 45 minutes, with the first coming to Robbie Fowler, who tried to find Sander Westerveld’s far corner, only for his shot to be blocked by his own team-mate, Gary McAllister, who was in an offside position.
The next chance fell to Michael Owen, quite literally, as McAllister’s cross found the former number 10 in acres of space but his header came off the crossbar.
There were moments of class from Jari Litmanen and Luis Garcia as Gerard Houllier’s men tried to attack David James’ goal with some nice build-up play involving Cheyrou and Vladimir Smicer, whose retirement hasn’t stopped him being able to twist and turn to create some space so he could pass to Garcia, whose shot was straight at the former England international goalkeeper.
It may have only been a friendly charity match but somebody clearly forgot to tell David Burrows that, as the defender was playing like it was the European Cup final, and he came close to breaking the deadlock when he met Fowler’s corner with a powerful header which went just wide.
Westerveld was tested again, but this time by Fowler, whose long-range shot was palmed away, but he could do nothing about the goal later on, as the former number 9 was put through one-on-one, after a wonderful pass from Jason McAteer, and was able to go around the Dutchman and poked it in with his right foot.
There was a noticeable turn in the tide once the second half had kicked off, as possession of the ball was now largely dominated by the International Legends, to such an extent that at one point James can be heard shouting for his teammates to try to get the ball past the halfway line but, bar a lovely cross-field Rabona pass by Jamie Redknapp, his side could not really get much going up top.
Unfortunately for him, he was soon picking the ball out of his net, as Smicer is teed up on the edge of the box by Dietmar Hamann and smashes the ball off the back of Thomas, which diverts the ball from going out for a goal kick into the back of the net.
Hailing from the far and exotic land of Runcorn, John Bishop comes on for the International Legends and is almost able to bag a goal at the Kop End, only for his shot to cannon off the post but the ball then drops to Cheyrou, who earlier missed a great chance but makes no mistake this time, as he is able to beat the goalkeeper at the near post.
Bjorn Tore Kvarme was then bundled over by Burrows in the area, to which Anthony Taylor awarded a penalty.
Having slotted away penalties at half-time, he felt in a confident mood as he opted to take it himself instead of leaving it to one of the more seasoned spot kick takers. Unfortunately though, he is facing David James rather than Mighty Red, who pulls off a save to keep the Local Legends in the game.
The miss then proves to be a costly one, as Fowler is then pulled over by Hyypia in the opposite box, and the referee awards yet another penalty.
It is at this point that Dalglish comes onto the field, to which Anfield verbally pushes him to take the spot kick, and Litmanen physically pushes him in the right direction, but ultimately he leaves it up to Fowler to smash it into the top corner to make it two apiece.
The draw was probably the fitting result as it gave both captains, Sami Hyypia and Ronnie Whelan, the opportunity to come together and collect the trophy from Margaret Aspinall, in the same way the football world came together to remember the 96 only six days ago on the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.