A few weeks ago a joke was made on ESPN’s Caught Offside podcast. Andrew Gundling exclaimed, “it feels like Liverpool play every game at Anfield, if there is a must win game it always at Anfield.”
It maybe a joke but the fact of the matter is, it’s all too true. On Tuesday the Champions League group stages began their final fixtures. For the members of Group C it was a fight to advance. With Paris Saint Germain, Liverpool, and Napoli all fighting for a spot in the round of 16. PSG was almost a shoe in to advance, but they put everyone’s fears to rest burying Red Star Belgrade 4 to 1.
So the real knockout game fell on the shoulders of Liverpool and Napoli. Liverpool had to either shut out the Italian side or win by two goals. The slightest miss step would cause heart break for the Reds.
Unfortunately for Napoli the game was at Anfield, one of sports last true palaces. A home field advantage that is real. To give a comparison to other atmospheres more familiar to American sports fans. Imagine playing the Seattle Seahawks in a home playoff game in 2005. Imagine playing the Red Socks in a World Series game in the early 2000’s. Imagine playing Penn State at home in a White Out. Anfield, is like that every night, but on those famous european nights it takes on a whole new feel.
The lights illuminate the pitch, The Kop has been building all day with anticipation. Finally when the team’s lineup and that first note of “You’ll Never Walk ALone” echos out across the bleachers, it’s enough to bring the most hardened man to a knee. Knowing they are truly in the closest thing to the Roman Coliseum that can be produced.
So as Napoli try they were not able to stand up to Jurgen Klopp Mighty Reds. They were unable to defeat the European Giants backed by a sea of red and white. They could not solve the Serie A keeper of the year Alisson Becker. They could not stop the Egyptian King Mo Salah from bringing Anfield past the point of jubilation with a goal that gave us flashes of last years form.
Try as they might Napoli fell victim to another one of those European Nights, at Anfield…
Walk on with hope in your heart.