Appreciating the opposition: The best away team performances at Anfield

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We’ve seen the goals against the Reds, home and away. Now it’s on to the very finest performances, starting with the collectives.

This is the third part of a mini-series looking at how Liverpool fans can, and do, appreciate the quality in front of them even when it’s not from those in Red.

Monday: The best Anfield goals against Liverpool
Tuesday: The best goals against the Reds away from Anfield
Today: The best away team performances at Anfield
Thursday: The greatest individual displays from an opponent


As good as the Reds can be, once in a while every team comes up against an opponent which is simply better: better on the day, or better overall.

Our own modern iteration, Jurgen Klopp‘s side, encountered that against Watford recently, despite being arguably the finest team on the planet over the last 18 months.

Here, we take a look at the best team displays that Liverpool have had the misfortune to come across at Anfield: teams which outwitted, outplayed or outfought the Reds on home soil.

 

Valencia, 2002

If you want to know how Rafael Benitez caught the eye of the Liverpool board, this match a couple of years prior to his Anfield move is a good indicator.

The Reds had already lost at Mestalla and were beaten here 1-0 at home by Los Che in the Champions League group stage, but that only tells part of the story.

Led by the irrepressible Pablo Aimar and the superb Ruben Baraja, Valencia’s passing was slick and unstoppable, their fouling was constant and niggly, their defence was impregnable and confident.

Fair to say, it left an impression. The goal comes 33 minutes into the above video and the entire move gives an example of how the midfield, in particular, failed to cope.

 

Crystal Palace, 2015

However close we’d come to winning the title under Brendan Rodgers, the project was dead by the end of 2014/15. This game—and the next away to Stoke—should have been the proof, but perhaps fate played a part as we got Jurgen Klopp a few months later.

Here, Crystal Palace proved their menacing, countering best against the Reds yet again, a team we seemed to always struggle against. No panache and silky movement here: just basic pace down the wings and good end product off set pieces.

Puncheon, Bolasie and Zaha in turn tormented the full-backs and the 3-1 defeat was an embarrassing footnote to Steven Gerrard’s glorious Anfield career.

 

Sunderland, 1930

Liverpool team group: (back row, l-r) Gordon Hodgson, Tom Morrison, Willie Steel, Elisha Scott, Arthur Riley, Archie McPherson, Dave Wright, Gordon Gunson (front row, l-r) Manager George Patterson, Harold Barton, James Jackson, Tom Bradshaw, Jimmy McDougal, Ted Crawford, trainer C Wilson

Probably not too many current readers who were around at this game, 90 years ago almost to the day!

Sunderland inflicted Liverpool’s heaviest-ever Anfield defeat on 19 April, 1930, scoring in the first minute and the 85th—plus another four in between—to ensure it was a dismal day literally from start to finish.

You know the old joke about however bad Liverpool do, Everton find a way to be worse? Well even here, on our worst-ever home game and 6-0 loss, they managed it: Everton ended the game week bottom of the First Division!

 

Real Madrid, 2014

Smashing through time back to near the present day, our abject showing upon our return to the Champions League is another stain on Rodgers’ initial flash-in-the-pan progress.

Cristiano Ronaldo – who was applauded off, Toni Kroos, Isco and Karim Benzema taught the Reds a lesson in what it took to be European kings, winning 3-0 in a comprehensive fashion.

It was three by the break; only for Los Blancos conserving some energy and respect, this could have been a far darker day in Anfield history.

 

Chelsea, 2005

Being European champions does tend to put you up as a target somewhat; particularly when you beat one of the favourites en-route to the trophy in contentious circumstances.

Just over fourth months after Istanbul, Chelsea came to town and annihilated the Reds, showing enormous power and relentlessness in their game to inflict Liverpool’s worst home league loss in almost 50 years—4-1 the final score.

There was absolutely no living with the Makelele-Essien-Lampard midfield in what was probably Jose Mourinho’s best era.

 

West Ham United, 2015

Another game from the infamous 2015 debacle, this time at the start of the campaign in which we switched from Rodgers to Klopp.

A young Joe Gomez was decent at left-back and Danny Ings made his debut, but Lovren and Skrtel produced a horror partnership in defence as the mighty Diafra Sakho proved too hot to handle.

West Ham even scored their final goal in the 3-0 win after they’d been reduced to 10 men; the Reds were exceptionally poor and Coutinho was also red-carded, but the Hammers did everything the Liverpool team were incapable of: fighting, working hard, staying organised, creating chances.

 

Blackpool, 2010

If the days of 2015 were bad, half a decade earlier was intolerably worse.

Liverpool, under Roy Hodgson, contrived to end the day in the relegation zone after a home defeat to newly-promoted Blackpool, who outplayed, out-passed and outthought the Reds, led by manager Ian Holloway.

This was the fifth in an eventual seven-game winless run under Hodge, one game before the infamous “utopia” defeat to Everton, and the game the first chants of “Dalglish” rang out on the Kop to signal the death knell for the incumbent boss’ reign.

Liverpool despair aside, Blackpool were brilliant. Charlie Adam delivered the passes and set-pieces, DJ Campbell ran the defence ragged, Gary Taylor-Fletcher delivered the bit of class.

The Reds lost 2-1 and the Tangerines were clapped off the Anfield pitch by the home fans.

 

Watford, 1999

Blackpool aren’t the only side to have been applauded off our turn: Watford earned the same accolade by acknowledgement a decade earlier, for instance.

Graham Taylor’s side won 1-0 against a newly reconstructed Gerard Houllier team and the Kop acknowledged their solidity, work rate and cohesion to eke out a result—a sharp contrast to the bitty, uncertain and inconsistent team which represented them at the time.

 

Grimsby Town, 2001

There are all kinds of ways to produce incredible Anfield performances and being a tiny side who produce the improbable is one of them.

Grimsby came to Anfield in the League Cup—which the Reds were holders of, along with the FA and UEFA Cup—as a side struggling to avoid relegation from the First Division—the second tier, now the Championship—and faced the likes of Hyypia, Carragher, Smicer, Hamann, Murphy, McAllister and Litmanen.

They held them 0-0, took the game to extra time—and even came from a goal down, a Gary Mac penalty, to score twice in the final seven minutes.

The winner came in the 120th minute from a former Everton academy player, who supported the Reds, Phil Jevons. Grimsby went through and Liverpool were knocked out.

 

Barcelona, 2001

And finally, one of the most iconic defeats—if that’s a thing—for Liverpool at Anfield, as lessons were handed out in ruthlessness, being clinical and having elite class.

As above, there are many ways to produce a great performance and they don’t all mean Liverpool are abject; indeed, when the Reds are at their best the opponent must be incredible to get a result.

Here, Houllier’s team was very good for the first half at least, took the lead and had other chances, but then Barcelona turned on the style, played keep-ball for long spells and were astonishingly good in the final third.

Kluivert, Rochemback and Overmars scored the goals, the last of which was the most memorable: about 40 consecutive passes, splitting the Reds apart to round off the game and remind us of what we aspired to.

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