With a few minutes left in the match, the Reds merely defended without pressuring desperate Everton. Adam Lallana was the lone figure in red harassing their blue-shirted cross-street rivals. Then Everton forward Romelu Lukaku was able to push deep into the right side. For the most part of the match, Liverpool’s left back, Alberto Moreno, had been able to stymie the Belgian forward but a missed tackle allowed Everton one last dangerous set piece. The cross was long, but Everton’s Aiden McGeady was able to keep the ball alive. The ball found its way to Blues defender Phil Jagielka, whose thunderbolt from outside the box punched the back of the net.
Everton’s Steven Naismith ran close to the Kop and punched his fist in the air; a sign of defiance toward Anfield’s most rabid supporters. Moments later, referee Martin Atkinson blew his whistle to end the first Merseyside Derby and left Liverpool still in search of its third win of the new league season. Liverpool’s last win at home was the season opener to Southampton. Their last win in the league was an away match on August 31 at Tottenham. In six matches, they only accrued seven points.
“Good game; bad result,” pronounced the man who sat behind me. “I hope it didn’t spoil your Anfield experience?”
Honestly? It put a slight damper on my feelings, but it didn’t spoil my experience.
In Liverpool for the first time in my life, the past four days have been magical. I have to constantly pinch myself and wonder if it’s a dream. The city that I learned about through songs of the Beatles and later through its football team…well, to borrow the words from the Fab Four’s “Penny Lane,” everything “is in my ears and in my eyes.”
I was staying at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel that is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The hotel is famous for hosting the passengers of the ill-fated Titanic right before it set sail from Liverpool to New York City. It is also the site of the annual Beatles convention. And as footnote to its history, the late John Lennon’s parents, Alf and Julia met on its steps before walking up to Mount Pleasant to get married on the 3rd of December in 1938.
The Beatles Taxi Tour I took was worth every penny. The Beatles were my first musical heroes and this reconnected me to them. The songs took greater meaning as I saw their childhood homes and the clubs where they first performed either as the Quarrymen or the Beatles.
The Anfield Stadium Tour brought me to every part of the world-famous football field that had seen so many historic matches and championships. To sit on the bench inside their dressing room, where all its players listened to their managers and laced up their boots for matches, I tried to recreate with my mind’s eye everything I could possibly imagine.
When we hit the pitch, I was overcome with a wave of emotions. “I’m here,” I said aloud.
“Aye,” said Ian, our stadium tour guide. He put a hand on my shoulder and said nothing more. Words weren’t enough to describe my feelings. And I am a writer. He knew what I was feeling.
But that hardly prepared me for Match Day at Anfield. Saturday was the official 223rd fixture between the two teams (the tenants have won 88, the visitors with 66 while 68 of them ended in a draw). I arrived a good four hours before kick-off. I wanted to soak up the match-day atmosphere with the impromptu booths set outside selling a variety of unofficial club merchandise, the fans gathering for pictures, for a smoke and for a song.
I held up a sign, “Came from Manila to watch the Cap’n & the Reds play. To see a Balotelli goal, 3 pts. & good memories going away. YNWA!”
Experiencing Lounge 7 with its five-course buffet was like fattening me up for the experience. When I finally took my seat (Lower Centenary Stand, Row #4 and seat #233), I thought I had died and gone to football heaven. I was close to the Kop and a stone’s throw away from the left corner. This is where the team did their warm-ups. And Anfield seemed like one big pub with everyone launching into song after fight song.
A few months ago I saw Steven Gerrard, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Mario Balotelli and Dejan Lovren on television for the World Cup. Now they were right in front of me.
I teared up when the 45,000 (save for the Everton fans) rose and sang the club’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The song holds greater meaning over here.
It took a confluence of events for this trip to happen—a ticket to a “Class A match,” some money to spend, a break from work, and good sunny weather during a time of the year that is normally cold and rainy. Draw or not, these days are some of the best of my life and will be happy thoughts I can return to time and again…in my Anfield of dreams (thanks to my parents, the British Embassy, LFC & Standard Chartered)