The view behind enemy lines at Anfield

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Adam Jones working in the press box at Anfield. Pic by Matthew Judge © JMU Journalism

Adam Jones working in the press box at Anfield. Pic by Matthew Judge © JMU Journalism

All Blues know how hard it is to sit through ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ without at least a grimace on your face, but I managed it last night though.

Along with my fellow student and Everton fan, Matthew Judge, I was lucky enough to be sat amongst the packed house of journalists and fans at Anfield, with the Kop belting out their famous anthem – truly nightmare-fuel for most Goodison Park regulars.

But you know what, the two of us Toffees really enjoyed our night ‘behind enemy lines’, reporting on Liverpool’s narrow Europa League win against Besiktas.

Granted, we probably would have rather been watching our own team, but regardless of who was playing or where, the opportunity to report on this calibre of football is something that no budding sports journalist can afford to let slip through their fingers.

It was a match that had already set the town alight in one sense, as thousands of Besiktas fans arrived during the day and marched through the city centre with flares, generating an extraordinary buzz in town in the hours leading up to the game.

The Turkish spectators wasted no time with creating a similar atmosphere inside the stadium, with their chants bellowing through Anfield even an hour before kick-off.

Besiktas fans lit flares as they marched around town before their Europa League match against Liverpool. Pic by Olivia Swayne Atherton © JMU Journalism

Besiktas fans lit flares as they marched around town before their Europa League match against Liverpool. Pic by Olivia Swayne Atherton © JMU Journalism

But nothing could have prepared us for the wall of noise that was created when both teams walked out of the tunnel, with the rival fans engaging in what was almost a war of singing for the first five minutes of the match.

However, for the first quarter of the game, the football on show didn’t exactly live up to the high expectations of a European night on Merseyside. There was not a whole lot of frantic typing-up of near misses for the most part and our biggest challenge throughout the first half was how we were going to keep warm.

The second half continued in much the same vein, with a couple of half chances for either side but nothing that had any of the press furiously bashing at their keyboards.

As tough as it might have been to stay neutral throughout the course of the night, we did a lot better than some of the visiting journalists, who were visibly outraged whenever Besiktas did so much as misplace a pass.

It took until the 85th minute until we saw the pivotal moment of the game as Jordon Ibe was adjudged to have been brought down inside the box and Liverpool earned a penalty.

Mario Balotelli strode forward to take it in the absence of injured captain Steven Gerrard, and despite the best efforts of stand-in skipper Jordan Henderson to insist this was his duty, the Italian striker coolly slotted the penalty home, sending the Kop into uproar.

Mario Balotelli scored the only goal of the game with a penalty for Liverpool against Besiktas. Pic © David Rawcliffe Propaganda Photo

Mario Balotelli scored the only goal of the game with a penalty for Liverpool against Besiktas. Pic © David Rawcliffe Propaganda Photo

You could almost feel the relief washing over the whole ground as the goal went in, changing the atmosphere in an instant from nervous and agitated to calm and happy. Liverpool saw out the final few minutes of the first leg to hold a 1-0 advantage going into next week’s return fixture in Turkey.

While Everton were quite literally battering Young Boys in a 4-1 Europa League success in Bern, two of their biggest fans were sat at Anfield, waiting to watch the Reds clinch an important European victory of their own.

We learned that the world of football reporting isn’t all the glitz and glamour that you see on the likes of Match of the Day; it’s more uncomfortable wooden seats and cold hands working under pressure to meet a deadline.

Looking back, it was most likely the first time I’ve ever enjoyed watching a win for the Red half of the city.

And if I got the same chance, I’d definitely do it all again.

Video by Hannah Perselli, JMU Journalism TV