Luis Garcia's winner against Chelsea in 2005 460
BRENDAN RODGERS was speaking from experience when he urged the Kop to help roar Liverpool FC to unlikely salvation this evening.
After all, the Northern Irishman knows what it’s like to sit in the opposing dugout and feel the power of Anfield on a European night.
Rodgers was a member of the Chelsea backroom staff for the famous Champions League semi-final against Liverpool in 2005.
The night of Luis Garcia’s “ghost goal” – as termed by Jose Mourinho – six minutes of stoppage time and that Eidur Gudjohnsen miss, the Anfield outfit eventually won through to an Istanbul date with AC Milan and their first European Cup final in 20 years.
It was arguably the most heralded of the many European nights to have graced the old stadium during the past half-century, occasions that have helped create a legend acknowledged throughout the Continent.
“I was here for that semi-final, for the ‘ghost goal’. For me, it wasn’t a goal!” laughs Rodgers.
“That was the sheer force of the crowd that got the goal. Jose spoke at that time of how he didn’t think it was over the line but the bottom line is that the referee gave it.
“It was under massive influence, there is no doubt about that. The atmosphere was as good as you will ever get.”
A home Europa League tie in February may pale in comparison but, for Rodgers, it represents an opportunity to make the first bold statement of his Anfield reign.
Liverpool entertain Zenit St Petersburg this evening looking to overturn a 2-0 round of 32 first-leg defeat having squandered a host of chance in Russia last week before succumbing to two late goals from Hulk and Sergei Semak.
History suggests it won’t be easy. In 11 previous attempts, only once before have Liverpool overturned such a deficit, Mark Walters netting the winning goal six minutes from time as Auxerre were beaten 3-0 at Anfield in November 1991.
Although less than 30,000 were present that evening, the volume of the crowd suggested there were twice as many in attendance.
And Rodgers believes the supporters have almost as much a role to play as his players tonight.
“The crowd will be so important for us,” says the Northern Irishman. “But equally we need the patience. It is a game that we need to get two goals but we also need patience.
“It is not something where the first five or 10 minutes are chaotic. We have to be aggressive in attack and we have to have intensity in our pressing.
“The first goal is important. If that comes after 40, 55 or 70 minutes, I still think we have the power of the crowd and the players to get the result as long as we stay super compact.”
Those looking for omens will be intrigued to discover the last time Liverpool played in Europe on this date was in 2007 when they came from behind to secure a remarkable 2-1 Champions League win over Barcelona – Ronaldinho, Deco, Messi et all – in the Nou Camp.