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Thursday, 8 March 2012

'Away Days' - Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal

The sound of my alarm clock ringing in my ears at 7 in the morning usually signals a feeling of dread, as the prospect of the day at school looms. However this was an exception. Having braved a virus, I was raring to go, and it was only appropriate to exhibit my vintage 1989 away shirt. Incidentally, the last trip to Anfield my father and his best mate (who I went with) made was that certain game in '89. Today was sure to bring back many memories.

I met Anthony and his ten year old son, Toby, outside the station. It was their first away game of the season due to various other commitments, and my eighth. 

The sun was out as the fans on the 8:07 train from Euston dispersed into Liverpool’s town centre. There was a real buzz of anticipation in the air, and we hopped on a bus to Anfield.

My proud display of my '89 away shirt evoked one too many menacing looks from the locals, so we followed the echo of "We won the league at White Hart Lane” from a nearby pub.

With about an hour till kick off, we entered the stadium. For Toby and I, this was our first visit to Anfield, so we were eager to make the most of the occasion. Our seats were right at the front, opposite the corner flag. I said to him, 'Imagine a last minute winner down this end'. 

Before kick off, the home faithful swayed to the spine tingling "You'll never walk alone", while we responded with: "You'll never get a job", which is hardly rarity from opposing fans nowadays! I've always wanted to experience their tradition first hand, and I wasn't let down. Having said that, the home support in general was pretty average and somewhat underwhelming. 

As I was situated pretty near the home section, I heard plenty of banter throughout the game, from both sets of supporters. Chants of "have you ever seen the scousers win the league?" were counteracted by, "where are your European Cups?!" from the Liverpool fans. The away end acknowledged this humorous comeback and showed their appreciation with some gentle applause. Then of course were the inevitable, "if you've got a job stand up!" and "we pay your benefits", directed towards the home end. Not many of them appreciated that! 

The first half was, in many ways, quite difficult to watch. We were getting outplayed and could not retain possession for a sustainable period of time. Suarez, albeit a nasty piece of work, was running us ragged at times, despite the vociferous abuse he was receiving, inevitably, from the away fans. My view of Szczesny's miraculous penalty double save was pretty poor, as I was low down, and in the corner. I saw the first save but braced myself for the roar of the crowd. It took me a good 10 seconds to realise what had happened, and then scenes of delirium ensued. I couldn't believe it! For the next couple minutes, it was Szczesny's name being sung, at full decibel.

Again, due to our lack of perspective, the view of the Van Persie equaliser was questionable. This didn't dilute our joy, however! Our first sign of any attacking threat or quality resulted in a goal. It's normally the antithesis of this with The Arsenal! But nevertheless, somehow we made it through to half time with the score level. 

During the second half, when Abou Diaby was warming up right in front of us, chants of, "he knocked John Terry out!" rang out from the Arsenal fans - which some may say was his best contribution in an Arsenal shirt! The boys in blue showed little attacking threat in the second half, but the wait made what happened next even more sweeter. 

After Liverpool's full back Martin Kelly inexplicably missed a tap in, I said that I'd happily take a draw right now - and that I'd be surprised if we get anything from this game.

 I was made to eat some absolutely succulent humble pie. 

Song found Van Persie, and as the space opened up, and the ball was about to land on his foot, the whole away end held their breath in sheer anticipation. Another smash and grab at Anfield, surely not?


The away end erupted. Absolute carnage ensued. Everyone spilled forward to the front, where the jubilant players were celebrating. Luckily, I had my phone out, and managed to get some wonderful snaps. Deafening choruses of "He scores when he wants" followed, and the whole away end were in party mode. The final whistle went, and some serious man love and stranger hugging went down. The party atmosphere continued, and the ecstatic Gooners were making a ruckus. I suffered several injuries, probably after falling off my seat which I was standing on, into the row in front. But it was totally, totally worth it. 

"We won the League on Merseyside" was sung passionately as we spilled out of the stadium, reminiscent to Chelsea away this season. I was ambushed by some mates, as the wild celebrations continued onto the streets. Eventually we took a bus to the station, with @LittleDutchVA, @Gooner_1983 and @SuperSwe.

We went our separate ways, and the original three of us hopped on the packed train back to London. We managed to find individual seats in first class, and I found a spare one next to Dermot O'Leary, the X Factor presenter, and his two mates, who are Gooners. Unfazed, I asked to sit down, and the four of us talked for the duration of the journey back. We got along well, agreeing about most things we discussed, ranging from Arsenal, to my school and A-levels. They even made a chant, "He's RlGoona, he drinks when he wants!" (My Youtube username). Anyway, it ended with him following me on Twitter, which was just the icing on the cake really! 

I got home, absolutely exhausted, but equally delighted. That was a smash and grab if there ever was one. Two weeks ago I said to a friend, who's a Chelsea fan, that I think we can get 6 points from our next two games. More in hope than anticipation, I've been pleasantly surprised! After regaining some pride against Milan, let's hope we can continue this form in the league. 

Remember to follow me on twitter @rlewisafc 

Up The Arsenal.

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