Richard O’Brien is a Champions Journalist fan reporter – but first and foremost, he’s a Liverpool fan. That meant emotions ran high on his long-awaited return to Anfield for a Champions League night…
What I witnessed was no ‘normal’. An abundance has been said about getting back to normality but not one bit of Liverpool’s return to a packed-out stadium in the Champions League can be described as such.
Wednesday night lights. Liverpool. AC Milan. Anfield. Two institutions of the Champions League with unfinished business between them. You would be hard pressed to find another tie in this year’s competition with as much success, history and rivalry behind it as this one.
Not only was it the magnitude of the tie but the football itself that proved to be anything but normal. What a bizarre 90 minutes. Utterly dominant for all but 120 seconds, Liverpool’s relentless pressure was frightening. That wasn’t necessarily a surprise but Mo Salah missing a penalty for just the second time for Liverpool was; as Tottenham, will tell you, seeing him fail to find the target is unusual.
Then came the two minutes in which Liverpool completely crumbled, in the face of two quick AC Milan counterattacks, to go in at the break 2-1 down. Had the home side clocked off early for half-time? But then, to our relief, Liverpool’s captain led a stellar second half comeback against Milan. OK, that we have seen before, but Jordan Henderson is not quite as prolific as Steven Gerrard was in the Champions League, having this week scored his first in the competition in seven years.
Singing the words of You’ll Never Walk Alone again with 55,000 other Reds was, I’ll be honest, overwhelming. It was emotional for many, including myself. A release from 18 months of build-up, followed by a thunderous roar of encouragement – and just like that, we were back. Milan’s faithful seemed glad to be there too. Despite there only being a handful of them, their noise filled the ground after Brahim Diaz put the travelling team ahead. Atmosphere is often exaggerated after the event, but not this time. Fans have had to spectate for so long – now we got to participate once more.
This game in particular went beyond normal. Better – far better. And having experienced Anfield for the first time all over again, like it was my very first game, I hope it never returns to normal. Let’s stick with this more thunderous, more chaotic, more unpredictable version.