Liverpool Legends 4-0 Australian Legends.
It was like watching a band reform after a 20-year hiatus. They stumbled on stage overweight, sang off key and played out of tune, but still sent the fans home happy.
Liverpool Legends outclass Aussies 4-0
The Australian Legends were picked apart by their aging Liverpool counterparts, going down 4-0 in an exhibition match at ANZ Stadium. Courtesy ABC News 24.
As they sat contentedly, football in Australia was quietly dealt a slap across the face.
'Quality of football' has long been the catch-cry of the 'Eurosnobs' who ignore domestic football while staying up all hours to watch the English Premier League. However, as 40,000 flocked to watch some old pros run around the pitch, that argument fell flat.
Abroad, such "Legends" games are usually reserved for testimonial farewells or to raise money for charities. A small donation and a brief hospital visit were made, but this was neither, essentially just another opportunity to satisfy a certain section of Australia's football public.
After sending their senior team to Australia for three friendlies in recent years, Liverpool shipped over a team of mostly retired players, talking loudly about how highly they valued their Australian supporters.
The sight of fully-grown men in their tens of thousands with their own surnames printed on the back of replica jerseys showed why domestic football in Australia will never win over a certain type of fan. It was a statement that quality of football - such as that on display each week in the rapidly improving A-League - isn't as important as the perception of prestige.
While priced and attended as a serious match, the truth is this game was never pitched as anything but a bit of fun. Liverpool coach Gerard Houllier didn't place any restrictions on food or drinks for his players and, in what many took as an insult to football in this country, promoters tried to get Jarryd Hayne on the field. He sat on the bench next to assistant coach and NRL player Robbie Farah.
He would have enjoyed the performances of Luis Garcia ,who scored a brace, Steven Gerrard, who has barely lost any pace, and Jamie Carragher, who looked equally sharp. The likes of Robbie Fowler and Vladimir Smicer hadn't lost their touch, but certainly their pace, fitness and physique. Ian Rush brought the house down when he made a cameo appearance, scoring a tap-in.
The Australian team was perhaps more entertaining. As Jason Culina ran rings around former European Champions, Australian fans could only bemoan the injury that denied them years of watching his talent.
The midfield combinations between Steve Corica, Craig Foster, Ned Zelic and Josip Skoko wound back the clock at times. Zeljko Kalac's reflexes may not be as sharp but his technique was flawless as ever. At the other end, Sander Westerveld was impressive between the posts for Liverpool.
All played their careers at the top level, and it was clear one more game in a big arena brought them immense joy. Those on the field were the big winners. Those in the stands may well have been left to reflect on the effects of ageing and the realisation that some things are best left in the past.
With no charitable cause behind it, the hidden price of this game was domestic football's pride. Of the 40,000 that came to ANZ on Thursday night, how many will be back on Saturday when Sydney FC play Newcastle Jets?