Liverpool 2-3 Udinese
Europa League Group A
Thursday 4th October, 2012
What a difference four days can make. On Saturday, I was one of 31 people watching Wigan Robin Park hammer Stone Dominoes in a NWCL Premier Division match. Tonight, I was at one of the legendary arenas in world football in a crowd of over 40,000.
After visiting Goodison Park earlier in the season, it was only fair that I show equal desire to visit their neighbours across Stanley Park, and so it was that - with the help of an old friend providing me with a spare ticket - that I found myself heading down towards Kirkdale on the Merseyrail train on a autumnal Thursday evening.
Liverpool have had an interesting start to the season. They were lingering in the relegation zone before hammering Norwich 5-2 away from home in the last round of Premier League fixtures. In the middle of their indifferent start, a 'weaker' side also put five past Young Boys away from home in the Europa League.
Tonight's visitors Udinese, who Boro locked horns with in the 1970s (and beat 4-0!), also find themselves at the wrong end of the Serie A table in 15th position with six points from as many matches.
I was delighted to find out that my seat would be in the Kop, one of the most famous stands in world football, if not the most famous. The view (above) was decent, as I'm sure you'll agree.
I won't make a direct comparison to Goodison Park, but the two grounds have very different 'feels' to them. Goodison Park has retained some of the 'good old days' traditional football ground feel, whereas Anfield feels very much more like a modern day football stadium, whilst maintaining it's impressive views inside.
In Group A of the Europa League, Liverpool had 3 points going into this game, with Udinese on 1 - having drawn with the Russians Anzi Machakala. It would be a tougher prospect than the Young Boys game, and everyone I overheard in the Kop was expecting a tough evening for Liverpool's side of second-string players - with a few exceptions.
The game kicked off with Udinese attacking the Kop, and Liverpool attacking the opposite end where the 600 or so vocal Italians were housed in a corner of the lower tier.
The first half was even enough, with lots of possession (over 70%) for Liverpool, but with no real end product. Udinese looked to be playing on the counter attack.
The deadlock was broken when Jonjo Shelvey got on the end of a 23rd minute Stewart Downing cross with a thumping header to send Liverpool in 1-0 up at the break. The game hadn't come to life yet, really.
The second half brought an immediate response from the Italians. Just 36 second half seconds were on the clock when Antonio di Natale, an Italian squad member at Euro 2012 and Udinese's best player on the pitch by a mile, got on the end of a great cross from the left wing to equalise.
This spurred Liverpool into action, and some great passing just didn't have an end product. The game looked to be heading towards a draw as the last twenty minutes approached. The next five minutes would bring three goals.
Luis Suarez, love him or hate him, provided the final goal of the five minute crazy spell, and indeed the final goal of the game. A free kick 20 yards out was expertly finished to raise the hopes of the Liverpool faithful. As much as they huffed and puffed though, it was just not going to be their night. Udinese celebrated a famous victory at the final whistle, as the Liverpool supporters - without a boo or jeer to be heard, but rather a ripple of polite applause for their team's efforts - wound their way through the streets of Merseyside, wondering how they didn't get at least a point from the game.
Three points from two matches for Liverpool in Group A, with it still all to play for. They will have to hope they can turn their possession into goals in future though, or their league and cup form will suffer.