Stars shine as Anfield charity game is drawn

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Mario Balotelli with Steven Gerrard in the All-Star Charity Game at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Mario Balotelli with Steven Gerrard in the All-Star Charity Game at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Nothing could separate the sides as Steven Gerrard’s XI drew 2-2 with Jamie Carragher’s team in a star-studded charity match at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.

Carragher’s men had opened up an early two-goal lead through Mario Balotelli and Didier Drogba but, so typical of his Liverpool career, it was Gerrard who dragged his team back into the tie with two penalty kicks either side of half-time and it finished 2-2 as neither side was able to find a winner.

Before the game, as the skies cleared and the sun shone brightly, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ chorused around the ground as captains Gerrard and Carragher led their teams of All Stars out under the ‘This Is Anfield’ sign and onto the pitch.

The crowd was always going to be a major part of games like this and it proved to be as the famous number 8 picked the ball up five yards inside the centre circle with mere minutes on the clock to begging murmurs of ‘shoot ‘ amongst the faithful that continued all game.

Luis Suarez with Steven Gerrard after the All-Star Charity Game at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Luis Suarez with Steven Gerrard after the All-Star Charity Game at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

In what might be the last time Carragher plays at Anfield, he will be pleased it was his side who took the lead as Balotelli fired home the opener. He found space on the edge of the area and after his quick feet bought him half a yard of space, he lashed home into the bottom corner past Brad Jones from 25 yards.

Then with 22 minutes gone, Balotelli’s pinpoint pass was Xabi Alonso-esque and found the feet of Drogba who had broken clear of his Chelsea team-mate John Terry. A composed step-over took the ball away from the stranded keeper Jones for Drogba to tap home for the team led by former Reds manager, Roy Evans.

Like all his great displays down the years, it fell to Gerrard to get his side back into the game and he did just that from the spot. The lively Jerome Sinclair had proved a nuisance for Carragher’s defence all game and once he was fouled in the area, Gerrard sent Pepe Reina the wrong way from the spot with around 10 minutes to go before half-time.

He will be disappointed they didn’t go into the break level as Thierry Henry’s ingenious fake, no-look pass put through Ryan Babel in all sorts of space but he fired wide.

In a half-time substitution that will had all Reds supporters roaring their approval, Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres were called upon to a rapturous reception to try and get something from the game for Brendan Rodgers’ men.

Suarez combined with Gerrard on the edge of the area after 69 minutes in scenes reminiscent of last season and the former’s darting run for the one-two was enough to draw Carragher into a foul and send the Barcelona man tumbling. Referee Lee Probert pointed to the spot and the captain stepped-up once more to level the tie.

Steven Gerrard scored twice from the penalty spot in the All-Star Charity Game at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Steven Gerrard scored twice from the penalty spot in the All-Star Charity Game at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

In the final 15 minutes, the 44,903-strong crowd watched with a glint in their eye and perhaps a certain regret in their heart at what might have been as Torres and Suarez provided moments of edge-of-your-seat tension through their flicks and touches on the edge of the area.

Then came the moment where their great leader in Gerrard received his curtain-call to the warmest round of applause all afternoon inside the final few minutes.

The two captains led their players on a lap of honour around Anfield as fans got to say thank you to former stars and current personnel in a game that featured 1,413 international caps, four goals and a large helping of warm nostalgia.

About Ben Matthews, JMU Journalism