Liverpool provided a powerful on-field and off-field demonstration of their stature as a world brand when they drew a crowd of 40,815 to Sydney's ANZ Stadium last night for a mere exhibition game featuring some of the club's long-retired legends against an Australian Legends XI.
With Steve Gerrard billed as the top attraction, the English Premier League giants confirmed their massive following in Australia and the club's fans made themselves heard during a stirring rendition of 'You'll never walk alone' before the game kicked off. Rugby league stars Jarryd Hayne, fresh off the plane, sat on the Australian bench alongside Robbie Farah, both huge Reds fans themselves. Neither made an appearance on the field, though several of Hayne's No.38 49ers jerseys were on show.
The Liverpool Legends won 4-0 with Gerrard providing the obligatory star turn.
While there might have been a few tight hamstrings and the inevitable calf strain, there were moments of magic.
The best came in the 73rd minute. The ball went from Gerrard to John Arne Riise, who squared it to none other than Ian Rush in the box. It was an easy tap in for the 54-year-old, who is Liverpool's all-time leading goal scorer with 346 across all competitions. Make that 347 now. The whole Liverpool team rushed to embrace him. It was another real veteran in John Aldridge who rounded up the scoring, the visitors winning 4-0. But the night was hardly about the result, even Gerrard admitting it was incredible to share the pitch with some of his own heroes.
In what must have been a deliberate ploy, Australian Legends coach Graham Arnold left his captain Robbie Slater on the bench for the whole first half. Still, there were more than enough creaky knees out there from the start. Of the 22 players who took to the field, only two are still currently playing professionally - Gerrard for LA Galaxy and John Arne Riise, who played last season for the Delhi Dynamos in India.
All eyes were on Gerrard - those that weren't on Hayne, waiting to see if he'd make an appearance - and the club legend came close to giving the crowd what they came to see when he broke through on goal, only to be thwarted by the defence. Gerrard did put in a cheeky chip to Garcia for Liverpool's second goal soon after the break and attempted an audacious long range shot in the second half that only just missed.
Finally Slater was introduced to the game, quickly followed by Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar - the 58-year-old receiving warm applause. But the warmest was saved for Rush and he certainly delivered on what would have been a good night out for those die-hard Liverpool fans. The players' bodies, though, will take a while to recover.