Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fortress Anfield: Jose Bows to the Special Ones

Flashback: May 3, 2005

Chelsea had a special one. Liverpool had forty-two thousand of them.

For some, it felt like a lifetime since they witnessed the glorious Europeans nights of the Paisley era. For others, it was all a sequence of visuals, stories and the words - 'those were the days'. On this night though, what stood between Liverpool and another date with the European trophy were Jose Mourinho's millionaires from Chelsea.

A gap of over thirty points in the league, at least a hundred million worth in players and four trophies in the start-of-season potential; the contrast could not be more. The Londoners had already won three times this season against the same opposition. But after a goalless draw at the Bridge, the unthinkable was on and on for one reason only - Anfield.

Years of greeting teams with a monstrous reception and years of embellishing it in red had made Anfield one of the most feared stadiums in Europe. In the anticipation and excitement of 'good ol' big ears' returning to it's forgotten habitat forever, the reds took it to a whole new level.

Thousands of red flags waving, forty-thousand red scarfs being held up, earsplitting whistles and 'You'll Never Walk Alone' reverberating around the stadium; the atmosphere was red. If there was a blue, he wasn't seen. If there was a blue singing, he wasn't heard. The hidden message was 'You cannot buy this'.

The supporters kicked every ball, made every tackle, saved every shot and rolled back the 'good ol' days' - the days of fortress Anfield. It was less Luis Garcia's touch and more the deafening roar of The Kop which seemed to have willed the ball over the line. A solitary dubious goal, a ticket to Istanbul, a meeting with Milan and the rest is history.

But it wasn't just any European win in the heart of merseyside. It was a night when Mourinho's march to European domination ended. A night when he walked-in arrogant and invincible, but walked-out bitter yet applauding. A night when, a humbled Jose knew, the Liverpool supporters well and truly were the 'special ones'.

That night, after twenty years in the wilderness, Liverpool Football Club started its romance with European football all over again...