Taking leaf from Liverpool, Masters footballers unstoppable at Battle of Reds in Singapore

Manchester Reds and Liverpool Reds after their Battle of the Reds match at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.
Manchester Reds and Liverpool Reds after their Battle of the Reds match at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Manchester Reds' Dwight Yorke in action during the Battle of the Reds match against Liverpool Reds at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.
Manchester Reds' Dwight Yorke in action during the Battle of the Reds match against Liverpool Reds at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Liverpool Reds' Jermaine Pennant is fended off by Manchester Reds’ Eric Djemba-Djemba during their Battle of the Reds match at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.
Liverpool Reds' Jermaine Pennant is fended off by Manchester Reds’ Eric Djemba-Djemba during their Battle of the Reds match at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Liverpool Reds’ Luis Garcia meets fans after the Battle of the Reds match between Liverpool Reds and Manchester Reds at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.
Liverpool Reds’ Luis Garcia meets fans after the Battle of the Reds match between Liverpool Reds and Manchester Reds at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Manchester Reds' Dimitar Berbatov is helped up by Singapore Reds' Alam Shah during their Battle of the Reds match at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.
Manchester Reds' Dimitar Berbatov is helped up by Singapore Reds' Alam Shah during their Battle of the Reds match at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Manchester Reds' Michael Gray scores during the Battle of the Reds match against Singapore Reds at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.
Manchester Reds' Michael Gray scores during the Battle of the Reds match against Singapore Reds at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Singapore Reds celebrate Aleksandar Duric's (second from right) goal during the Battle of the Reds match against Liverpool Reds at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.
Singapore Reds celebrate Aleksandar Duric's (second from right) goal during the Battle of the Reds match against Liverpool Reds at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Liverpool Reds' Luis Garcia attempts a shot during the Battle of the Reds match against Singapore Reds at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.
Liverpool Reds' Luis Garcia attempts a shot during the Battle of the Reds match against Singapore Reds at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - It just seems impossible to stop Liverpool's momentum, not just in the English Premier League, but also its veterans, as the Liverpool Reds emerged victorious at the Battle of the Reds held at the National Stadium on Saturday (Nov 16).

In the first of three 40-minute matches, they came from 2-1 down to score a 37th-minute equaliser against the Singapore Reds as Luis Garcia and Singapore former international Aleksandar Duric each grabbed a brace.

The Manchester Reds then took advantage of the hosts' tired legs to score a 2-0 win in the second game, courtesy of goals from Danny Webber and Michael Gray.

However, the Liverpool Reds ultimately prevailed in the final match of the night by beating the Manchester Reds 1-0 through John Durnin's 23rd-minute winner off Emile Heskey's square pass following a counterattack.

Former United striker Teddy Sheringham said: "It's always great to renew the rivalry every once in a while. The first time it hit me how big the rivalry is was when I travelled to Anfield as a Man United player.

"We got off the coach and got a lot of abuse from the Liverpool fans. There is a warrior-type of rivalry but there's a lot of hatred there as well that stems from years and years of history of playing against each other, and being the top two teams in English football history.

"Sir Alex Ferguson reignited it by saying he wanted to knock Liverpool off their perch and it's stayed on from there. I've played in Tottenham-Arsenal games before but the Manchester United-Liverpool ones are maybe even bigger than that."

This was perhaps why former Liverpool goalkeeper David James was still relishing a win over United even 20 years after he last played for the Reds.

 
 
 
 

With a gleaming smile, the 49-year-old said: "Any time, anywhere, any year, it is nice to get one over United. You cannot say it is the Jurgen Klopp effect for us, but we represent the confidence the club are having at the moment."

Age does prove to be a great leveller, and it showed in the first match as the local icons managed to hold the Liverpool Reds to a 2-2 draw.

The 8,383-strong crowd at the National Stadium also saw the brief return of Jermaine Pennant, who turned out for Singapore Premier League side Tampines Rovers in 2016, as the winger's cross past Rezal Hassan in the fourth minute saw Garcia heading home their first goal. It looked like a mauling was on the cards but the Singapore Reds got the local fans cheering when Duric beat Phil Babb on the right flank before firing past James in the 12th minute.

It got even better for the 49-year-old former national striker as he latched on to Fahmie Abdullah's clipped pass and fired a shot past James in the 32nd minute.

Duric said: "It's always great to score regardless of the occasion, and I want to teach the younger generation how to score. Wes Brown was the toughest to play against and I love such physical battles."

The battle of the veterans also proved to be a contest of fitness, with former Singapore custodian Lionel Lewis emerging as one of the winners. The 36-year-old's quick reflexes in the 24th minute saw him clawing away Garcia's goal-bound effort that left the Spaniard purring.

Garcia said: "That goalkeeper still can play. It was an amazing save because I thought that was in. But it feels good that we won at the end and we all enjoyed a good event."

There were also other glimpses of the veteran footballers' trademarks - from Dimitar Berbatov's nonchalant brilliance and Keith Gillespie's adventurous runs down the wing to Jason McAteer's competitiveness and Pennant's enterprise from the flanks.


Singapore Reds' Ali Imran fends off Manchester Reds' Dimitar Berbatov during their Battle of the Reds match at the National Stadium on Nov 16, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

However, there was no grandstand finish for the Manchester Reds despite the best efforts of Dwight Yorke, who was part of the team that dramatically pinched the 1999 Champions League title from Bayern Munich in the final at Nou Camp.

The 48-year-old said: "We tried our best, but they got the goal that matters. Any time United lose to Liverpool, it's definitely disappointing, but we played some good games and we just have to accept that Liverpool have got something going on for them at the moment."

The third edition of the Masters tournament at the 55,000-seater stadium on Saturday drew a crowd of 8,383, which was slightly higher than the 8,000 fans who turned out for the Battle of the Masters here in 2017 involving former Arsenal, Liverpool and Singapore player and significantly lower than the 30,000 who attended the Liverpool vs Manchester United Masters event in 2015.