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When Liverpool saw red to give Real response to ‘This is Anfield – so what?’

You know the feeling when you’ve tempted fate, words that ought to be rescinded as soon as they’ve gone to print? Marca‘s statement of, ‘This is Anfield – so what?’ was just that.

There is no myth to a European night under the Anfield lights, when the atmosphere is feral and the walls start to close as the red wave comes crashing through.

And if Spanish outlet Marca or Real Madrid were not aware before March 10, 2009, they departed Anfield having been handed a lesson that still echoes on some 13 years later.

“Real were not just beaten, they were pummelled into submission by a Liverpool side which grabbed their illustrious opponents by the scruff of the neck and never let go until all signs of life had been squeezed out of them,” the Echo penned in the aftermath.

Underestimate the power at Anfield at your own peril.

 

Here’s your headline!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, March 10, 2009: Liverpool players line-up before the UEFA Champions League First Knockout Round 2nd Leg match against Real Madrid at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 2008/09 season is one that is remembered for a campaign that got away, a formidable side that would never lift the elusive league title.

Rafa Benitez at the helm and Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres making up the spine. Oh, what could have been.

But the visit of Real showed off just what this Reds side was capable of, taking the Spanish side from pillar to post from the first whistle to the very last.

Real Madrid arrived as the chasers having seen the Reds take a 1-0 advantage from the first leg of the last-16 tie, with Yossi Benayoun the one to notch the invaluable Bernabeu goal.

It set up an enticing return fixture, one that wasted little time in bursting to life as Liverpool and Anfield answered the misguided headline from the morning of the game.

Liverpool XI: Reina; Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio; Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Gerrard; Babel, Torres

“This was an assertiveness not normally associated with Benitez but the manager had made no mistake in diagnosing incompetence in the Real ranks,” the Guardian reflected on what would be one of the most memorable games from the Spaniard’s time at the helm.

Liverpool wasted little time in flying off the start line, with Torres swiftly putting Real hearts in their mouths with a sumptuous turn off Gerrard’s pass – but he needn’t wait long to get the rout started.

The 16th-minute, to be exact. Liverpool’s No. 9 could not have asked for an easier finish to double the Reds’ lead in the tie, with Pepe left to watch on from the turf – the best seat in the house.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, March 10, 2009: Liverpool's Fernando Torres celebrates scoring the opening goal against Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League First Knockout Round 2nd Leg match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“It was as if the white shirts of Real served as a red rag to this Spanish bull and in the first half-hour, in particular, Torres was simply unplayable,” an apt summation by the Echo.

One on the night then became two just 12 minutes later after a dubious penalty call went the way of Benitez’s side after the ball bounced from Alvaro Arbeloa to the shoulder of Gabriel Heinze, a good advertisement for VAR, perhaps?

Gerrard did not let the opportunity to make it 3-0 on aggregate pass him by, capping off a first half that had the potential to embarrass Real then and there such was their ineptness.

It was breathtaking and spellbinding and Liverpool were still not finished as their relentless tempo continued to overwhelm without mercy as Reds gleefully watched on from the stands and around the world.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, March 10, 2009: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard MBE celebrates with team-mate Fernando Torres after scoring his second, Liverpool's third goal against Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League First Knockout Round 2nd Leg match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Gerrard displayed as much with his second of the night, on what was his 100th European appearance, with his finish on the half-volley hitting the net before Iker Casillas could react.

“That techically perfect strike brought the world’s richest club to its knees and the vociferously passionate Anfield crowd to its feet, a wonderfully iconic moment on a wonderful night.”

The win was sealed, but even Andrea Dossena got in on the party late on with his first goal for the club, putting the finishing touches on a humiliating 5-0 rout on aggregate for the Galacticos.

It’s the type of night that is long imprinted on your brain and the press was right to say: “Supporters will look back on nights like last night as among the most glorious and memorable they have ever experienced.”

 

What came next?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, March 10, 2009: Liverpool supporters sing their anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' as the Reds beat Real Madrid 4-0 during the UEFA Champions League First Knockout Round 2nd Leg match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The emphatic victory sent Real Madrid packing and they would end their LaLiga season behind Barcelona while Liverpool were set up against an all too familiar foe.

Chelsea awaited Benitez’s side in the Champions League quarter-final and it was to end in dramatic and heart-wrenching fashion with the Londoners emerging as 7-5 victors on aggregate.

It denied Liverpool and Benitez their third run at a European Cup final and while league exploits had promised great things, that too would run out of steam as crippling draws and a lack of squad depth proved damning.

But before all that would come to pass, the thunderous nature of the Reds’ dismantling of Real Madrid was closely followed by both Man United and Aston Villa receiving the same treatment in a joyful week of demolitions.

A trip to Old Trafford saw Alex Ferguson’s United ripped to shreds in a euphoric 4-1 victory before Villa were next up to be chewed up and spit out with a 5-0 thumping.

A joyous and masterful 12 days that will forever live long in the memory.

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