Rangers made their first visit to Anfield on Tuesday evening, and while matters on the pitch were a relative one-way street, in the stands there was potential for something a bit more combative and combustible.
Chasing perpetual shadows, for huge swathes of Tuesday night Rangers must have felt like proceedings were offering them a cruel insight into how most of their domestic opponents feel when making a visit to Ibrox.
It might pan out differently next week, but there was a monumental gulf in class and endeavour between Liverpool and Rangers during the first helping of their ‘Battle of Britain’ double-header.
An early Liverpool goal in each half killed off the prospect of a contest in part one, on an evening when an inspired Allan McGregor kept the score down to a more-than-respectable goal count.
In a more ruthless frame of mind, Jurgen Klopp’s side could have scored two or three times as many goals as they did.
A team that prides itself on its pressing game, Rangers’ players seemed to fear the potential repercussions of taking such an ethos onto the Anfield pitch.
Forced to defend deep and unable to hold on to the ball for any prolonged period, it left them in a badly exposed middle ground, where they would be damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.
This was a fixture that was far removed from the blood and thunder of so many of Liverpool’s previous encounters with teams from north of the border, but this is a very different landscape that sits between the top flights of English and Scottish football, compared to what was once a more evenly matched set of scales.
That said, next Wednesday, Rangers will set themselves the task of being bolder on home soil.
They will want to put on a show in front of their own supporters, they will want to make amends for not being at the races at Anfield until a couple of threatening situations fell their way late on, one of which VAR might have had something to say about it, had it found its way past an alert Alisson.
Next week, however, a bolder approach from Rangers might well play into Liverpool’s hands, should Klopp’s side be in a less generous mood.
Sleepwalk into it, though, and we might be in for a nasty surprise in the early exchanges.
Either way, this return fixture will be the one that Rangers and their supporters will have been the most eager for when the draw was made.
That appetite won’t have been vanquished by them losing all three of their Champions League outings so far.
In the stands and meeting Rangers fans
Away from the pitch, it was in the Upper Main Stand where things got a little feistier.
A couple of pockets of Rangers supporters added a little bit of edge to proceedings, especially when the ones to the left of me joined in away end renditions of Rule Britannia and God Save the King.
Fingers were jabbed, and words of an invective nature were exchanged; the potential for aggravation ebbed and flowed throughout the evening, without the trading of physical correspondence.
In the calmer moments, some friendly and open conversations were had about a myriad of topics, inclusive of whether their overt unionism overlaps into daily life away from football grounds and the pubs of their liking, or if was just for the pantomime of football rivalry, plus their wider relationship with Celtic, from where sentiment swung from pure hatred to confessed respect, sometimes swooping from one end of that particular spectrum to the other in the blink of an eye.
When all was said and done, they seemed to have enjoyed their night and were stunned to hear that alcohol was available on the concourse at half-time, while occasional common links were settled upon and backs were slapped here and there, rather than punches swung.
One of our unexpected visitors even took mobile numbers from one or two Reds, having been offering the possibility of tickets for the return game in the home sections.
Having been an away supporter in home sections on a few away days myself, it has never been an issue for me if opposing supporters tip up in the home sections of Anfield, just as long as they don’t act the arse with it.
Accept the hospitality and respect your surroundings if you are going to do it and you’ll be fine in even the most traditionally unwelcoming of arenas.
This isn’t a view shared by all, and there were some of the home congregation who took exception to the concept on Tuesday night, quite a few of them – but not all – being day-trippers who, looking to fit in, got it badly wrong with the type of chants that would be more at home on Soccer AM than at Anfield.
In these instances, it made for the peculiar sensation of feeling I harboured more in common with the interloper from Glasgow than the fella from somewhere south of Keele services ‘giving it large’ in the name of Liverpool.
An oddity of a night, from a distance, in the away section the Rangers fans there could have been interchangeable for the Glasgow branch of the Chelsea Supporters’ Club, with much waving of plastic flags.
For both sets of fans, it was all about the contrasts within their own ranks, as much as it was the clash of collective tribal cultures.
One Rangers fan asked me with genuine interest: “Which is your Scottish team?”
He was taken aback when I said I didn’t have one.
When pressed on the matter after he suggested that Liverpool had a fanbase with predominant Celtic leanings, he was shocked when I mentioned the old half-and-half bobble hats that were as much in number on the old standing Kop in terms of Liverpool-Rangers as they were Liverpool-Celtic.
There even used to be Celtic-Rangers chants that would go up occasionally.
Looking back, if anything, back in the 1980s, it was Dundee United for me anyway. They had a much cooler kit and they could play a bit too.