RED ARMY: EUROPEAN SEMI FINAL MEMORIES

RED ARMY: EUROPEAN SEMI FINAL MEMORIES

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Liverpool Football Club and its fans are in Villarreal for the Europa League semi final tonight. In the last twenty years, the club has reached seven European semi finals – tasting success in three of them. It’s not always the results that come immediately to mind, though. We asked an ex-Boss Magazine boy and author for his memories of recent European nights at Anfield. By John Maguire.

1997, versus Paris Saint-Germain, Anfield
The reds were 3-0 down after the first leg in France. I was a 21-year-old Kopite that night, with hope in my heart, when Robbie Fowler scored early on in the game. Alas, it was not meant to be… Mark Wright scored to make it 2-0 in the second half, but despite a very noisy Spion Kop doing their best to encourage the reds, the game ended with an aggregate score of 2-3. We never did win that European Cup Winner’s Cup. No big loss, though, it was the least attractive of all the cups anyway…

Song: ‘Stand By Me’ by Oasis
Clobber: short-sleeved Ben Sherman, all white Reebok Classic

2001, versus Barcelona, Anfield
The UEFA Cup semi-final of 2001 was indicative of the sleeping giant stirring from its slumber and putting itself back on the elite footballing map. Houllier’s red army faced the mighty Barcelona and were criticised in the first leg for playing too defensive. The manager responded, stating: “You do not try to out-bite a Rottweiler.” I liked that. The first game was a 0-0 bore draw and we were made up with the result. The second leg was beautifully set up at Anfield and our plan was executed to perfection, with the only goal of the match coming from Gary Mac’s spot-kick. Again, I witnessed this match from the middle of the Spion Kop and at the time viewed it as being the best atmosphere I had ever witnessed. Just four years later, however, I was to realise exactly what an incredible atmosphere really was…

Song: ‘Digital Love’ by Daft Punk
Clobber: Lacoste jumper and gold bracelet on right wrist

2005, versus Chelsea, Anfield
May 3rd 2005 began with a lot of nervous anxiety. Unlike most Kopites, I wasn’t solely nervous about our encounter with Chelsea that evening at Anfield – I woke up that morning in Cologne, Germany, having just turned 30 a couple of days earlier and being away on a booze-fuelled lads trip to celebrate this landmark age. My feelings of anxiety, then, were in relation to getting to Walton Breck Road before kick off… it turned out that the flight was on time and we touched lucky for a lift from Speke Airport straight to Anfield, stopping in The Sandon for one nerve-settling beer before making our way into the Kop. The tie was balanced, 0-0 in the first leg, and everyone was in the ground at least half an hour before kick off. The atmosphere was like nothing I’d ever experienced before or since. Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’ and Eidur Gudjohnsen’s ‘ghost miss’ in the sixth minute of time-added-on have gone down in Anfield folklore… alongside John Terry’s tears. The noise and subsequent YNWA that greeted the referee blowing the final whistle will live forever in the memory of all who witnessed it – it truly was the greatest footballing night of our lives. Three weeks later, we went to Istanbul for the final… and that turned out alright as well.

Song: ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash
Clobber: 80’s Casuals, Adidas Indoor Super

2010, versus Atletico Madrid, Anfield
The naughties ended with two further European semi finals against Chelsea. We went through in 2007, courtesy of Dirk Kuyt’s crucial spot kick in the penalty shoot-out at Anfield in the second leg, but Chelsea managed to get revenge for the two previous encounters by knocking us out the following year. In 2010, it was Atletico Madrid who stood in our way of reaching the Europa League final. The reds were trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Spain. “That doesn’t matter,” we thought. “We always go through when the second leg is at home…. ” Things were going to plan, we made the tie level through Alberto Aquilani and scored what we perceived to be the winner in extra time, via Yossi Benayoun. However, our old ‘friend’ Diego Forlan left us forlorn, when he scored the vital extra-time away goal that saw Atletico through to the final. This game played out during an extremely gloomy time for us reds – with the ‘off the pitch’ activities of Hicks and Gillett receiving as much focus from supporters as what the players were doing on the pitch.

Song: ‘You lying bastards, get out of our club’ by Us
Clobber: Spirit of Shankly Union T-shirts, protest banners.

2016, Villarreal, Anfield
This brings us up-to-date with our forthcoming tie against Villarreal, a team known as ‘The Yellow Submarine’, apparently, because they bob up and down the Spanish divisions… and, of course, their yellow team strip. The reds must surely be favourites to get to the final, particularly after beating Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. We can’t take the tie lightly, though, Villarreal are doing well in their league at the moment, currently in fourth place. The travelling red army all shouted “Benidorm!” in unison when the draw was made – and you can guarantee that there will be several Liverpudlians singing along to ‘Comfortably Numb’ in the famous Scouse institution known as ‘The Guinness Bar’ on the beach front this week. A draw in Spain would suit us fine and the power of the home support can then come into play again in the second leg… expect to see and hear another fantastic atmosphere, as Anfield does its best to roar on Liverpool and send them off to Basel for the final. Up the reds!

John Maguire is co-author of ‘Here We Go Gathering Cups in May: Liverpool in Europe’

BOSS Liverpool Fanzine

Pic by John Johnson

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1 comment

Jim mcdonald
May 5, 2016 Reply
Cracking games. what about the earlier semis? another article about 73/6/7/8/81 would not go amiss.

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