Belfast Telegraph

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Comment: How Liverpool's Kopite magic created another European night to go down in Anfield folklore

By Gareth Hanna

Quite often in life the most anticipated events struggle to live up to the hype.

Take, for example, the time I finally got round to watching 'The Dark Knight', or 90% of Premier League 'Super Sundays', or even the time Glenavon signed one of my favourite players Paddy McCourt.

So when a kind mate offered me a ticket to the Champions League semi-final, I couldn't help but hold a smidge of fear that the legendary European nights at Anfield might fall neatly into that category.

As a big Red (it runs in the family), I've been to Anfield plenty of times. And in truth, I've always thought the Kop often fall below Northern Ireland's GAWA for NPP (noise per person - my own made-up, and very estimational, crowd-rating system).

As it turns out, even our Green and White Army have to be on top form to match the Kopites on one of those mythologised Anfield evenings.

While, of course, the night was marred by the events that left a Liverpool fan in a critical condition with two men from Rome, aged 25 and 26, arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, inside the stadium summed up everything glorious about our beautiful game.

Before kick-off, I already sensed it would be so. I've never experienced first hand a rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' sung with such emotion (And no, Hoops fans, I haven't been to Celtic Park yet).

The nerves on the faces of the fans around us, the incessant noise throughout, the swinging scarves (my own included) during the deafening shouts of 'Allez Allez Allez' - it all amounted to a footballing feast that could be matched for its beauty only by the performance of the Redmen on the pitch.

Mohamed Salah, having seen Luis Suarez in his pomp, is potentially the best I've seen in a Liverpool shirt - his first goal breath-takingly spectacular and the second, comfortingly simple.

Then there's Firmino - you know, the 25 goal-a-season stiker that Liverpool needed to replace with a 25 goal-a-season striker, apparently. And my own favourites Andy Robertson and James Milner.

It was, for 70 minutes, potentially the greatest display of attacking talent I've witness thus far - although Kevin Braniff's four goals in an Irish Cup final do cause me to hesitate on this point.

Mix all of that together and it made for a spell-binding tension of raw emotion. Laughter, shouts, tears.

And at the end of it all, perhaps all of the effort will bring me the opportunity to watch our team in another Champions League final with my 86 year-old granda.

European nights at Anfield. Magic. Confirmed.

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