written by Jamie McLaughlin website at www.anfieldnews.com
It is very unusual for Liverpool to be playing friendly matches at this stage of the season, but with both Liverpool and Rangers not participating in Europe the match was arranged to benefit both clubs, both financially and for match fitness. Dalglish who supported Rangers as a boy would be determined for his side to put on a good show in Glasgow. Obviously the main aim was to get some much needed match fitness, especially for the players that have not been getting a game and for the players returning from injury.
As promised Dalglish did bring a strong team up to Glasgow for this glamour friendly, although many of the players starting the match have not played recently. Kenny started the match with Doni in goal with former Ranger Wilson at left back, the fit again Johnson at right back, with Coates and Agger in the middle of defence. The midfield consisted of Aurelio on the left with Spearing and captain for the night Lucas in the middle, and Maxi on the right side, with up front Andy Carroll partnering Craig Bellamy.
It was a decent crowd for a friendly fixture with a nice gesture before the match with supporters from both clubs parading a banner in memory of those who lost their lives in the Hillsborough and Ibrox disasters prior to the match, while a collection was set up with half of the total funds raised going towards the Hillsborough Family Support Group.
The game started with Liverpool almost taking the lead within 90 seconds when Maxi found Carroll with a tremendous pass on the left hand corner of the penalty area, but the big striker’s first time volley went into the crowd.
After this early chance Rangers started to threaten and in the 10th minute Ortiz beat the Liverpool offside trap but the Liverpool defence managed to scramble away his cutback for a corner. Shortly after Ortiz had a drilled effort well saved by Doni as Rangers kept on the offensive.
Then in the 20th minute Doni made a great save from a low Whitaker shot pushing the ball round his left hand post. But from the resulting corner Rangers took the lead when McCulloch’s scuffed effort squirmed beneath the legs of Aurelio on the goal line as Liverpool failed to clear the corner. It was a deserved lead for the hosts.
Rangers were on the ascendancy now and Doni had to make another good stop from McKay’s headed effort from a Lee Wallace centre. Then Davis should have doubled Rangers lead when he got behind the Liverpool defence but his lobbed effort landed on the roof of the net.
Liverpool never troubled McGregor in the Rangers goal during the first half but they did work a fine move with Johnson and Maxi combining down the right but Maxi’s effort was well blocked by Broadfoot to keep Rangers in the lead at half-time.
I think Dalglish had some strong words to his team at the break after watching his side look extremely off the pace in the first half, and within minutes of the re-start Bellamy almost brought Liverpool level with a shot on the turn just missing the upright.
But Rangers thought they had made it 2-0 in the 55th minute when Lafferty smashed his effort off the post from 6 yards out before Doni managed to prevent the ball crossing line when it seemed like a goal was inevitable. The big stopper injured a finger in the process and had to be replaced by Hansen.
As Liverpool looked to get back into the game they should have equalised when Maxi robbed Broadfoot of possession 25 yards out but his cutback towards Carroll was well read by the Rangers defence.
Dalglish brought on Adam, Kuyt, Downing and Flanagan for the last 25 minutes as they tried to salvage the game but it was Rangers that came closest with Lafferty and the veteran David Weir being very unlucky with terrific efforts.
As the game entered its conclusion, Carroll was centimetres away with a powerful header from an Adam corner. Downing also had low strike well saved by McGregor at his near post. The substitutions had the desired impact but Rangers held out to claim a win.
I took my daughter to the match but unfortunately had to sit with the Rangers supporters as the Liverpool end was full. So I’m afraid it was not as enjoyable an experience as I had hoped. It was a tremendous gesture by the supporters with the banner being paraded before kick-off in respect of both disasters that both clubs have endured. It was good to see so many players starting the match that were in desperate need of match fitness. Good to see Johnson, Aurelio and Agger back to fitness although Johnson and Aurelio looked off the pace. In fact most of the team looked short of match fitness as they struggled against a sharper Rangers side in the first half. If it wasn’t for Doni we could have lost by a lot more as he made some terrific saves but worryingly left exposed too often as the Liverpool defence looked disjointed. I thought Maxi looked lively and Bellamy too without an end product. But Andy Carroll was very disappointing and looked like very lethargic on the night. I was very disappointed that Carragher and Suarez but especially Gerrard never featured as there was a superb travelling support, but I can see the reasons for not playing them in a friendly with so many important games coming up. I can’t hide my disappointment of the night but got to take out the positives and they are the match fitness for many of the squad players.
Man Of The Match – Agger – great to see him back and thought he played well under quite a bit of pressure at times from Rangers. He just shaded it from Doni who made some vital saves.