SINGAPORE - Football fever returned in force on Sunday (April 10) night as about 100 fans painted Cafe Football red for the English Premier League's top-of-the-table clash between Manchester City and Liverpool.
With a sea of Liverpool jerseys in the crowd, they soaked up a top-billed clash that delivered quality and drama in spades as the tie ended in a 2-2 draw.
A collective groan was heard after just five minutes when Kevin de Bruyne's long-range shot took a deflection off Joel Matip into goal to give City the lead.
The venue, which had three projector screens and seven televisions, descended into a hush, but only for eight minutes, as the Liverpool fans erupted in unison when Diogo Jota thumped in the equaliser from Trent Alexander-Arnold's cut-back.
For many among the crowd, it was a celebrated return to pre-Covid days when fans of all stripes were able to sit at pubs to catch their favourite teams in action on a weekend.
Safe management measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 during the pandemic had prohibited such live screenings, but the curbs were eased on March 29, along with the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol after 10.30pm, as group sizes for social gatherings were doubled to 10.
Muthu Kumaran, a 42-year-old Liverpool fan of 30 years, was at Cafe Football with seven friends. He said: "We missed this atmosphere a lot, and we definitely plan to come back every week.
"Watching at home and watching in public are different things. At home, we have to keep our noise level down, but over here we can have a good time cheering for the full 90 minutes."
As half-time approached, City went ahead again when Gabriel Jesus beat the offside trap to score in the 37th minute to gentle applause.
But less than a minute into the second half, Liverpool were level again thanks to Sadio Mane, and strains of "ole, ole, ole, ole" filled the room.
Cafe Football director Simon Tan said: "It's been a long while since we had such a buzz and heard such a noise. This is what football fans and bar and restaurrants like ours have been waiting for, and it's beautiful.
"Our business dipped 60 to 70 per cent because of the pandemic and is rebounding by 30 to 40 per cent now.
"We are operating at 75 per cent sitting capacity according to the guidelines, and hope it can be opened up to 100 per cent soon so we can truly welcome back the glory days."