Liverpool backers color venue red

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

BANGKOK – Liverpool-mania hit fever-pitch Sunday night as hordes of Reds’ supporters transformed Rajamangala National Stadium into a mini-Anfield for the club’s friendly against the Thailand War Elephants.

A huge group of the Krop numbering over 60,000 flocked into the Stadium amid chances of rain – a merry mix of faces from Thais to Singaporeans, Indonesians, Indians, Europeans, and yes, a few Filipinos, eager to see their idols in action.

They came clad in Liverpool’s famous red home kits, brandished banners and streamers ranging from the usual club merchandise to teary-eyed marriage proposal, cheered on every player and nearly every move, and of course, emotionally sang along the club’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” before kickoff and after the final whistle.

The Reds gave fans quite a good show, posting a 3-0 shutout of a game Thai team, some of whom are members of the under-23 side gearing up for the Southeast Asian Games.

Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho, back after missing their 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory in the previous leg due to injury, deftly circled around two defenders to send it home to thunderous applause in the 16th minute.

Spanish striker Iago Aspas, a transferee from Celta Vigo, doubled the lead four minutes after the restart as he eluded the defense with a Maradona spin and left-footed it in.

Captain Steven Gerrard, whose every touch was greeted with cheers, joined in the fray in the 59th minute when he chipped in a feed by Aspas to thunderous applause. The Englishman repaid them by blowing kisses to the stands. “Stevie G” had another scoring chance but his chip just bounced off the bar.

“It was an excellent game. For us, it’s obviously another step up in our football fitness level,” said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, thanking their fans profusely for their support.

“First of all, some credit to Thailand. I thought they were excellent, there were some very, very good players, they played tactically very well. However,  I thought our attitude in the game, our intensity were at really good level this stage of the pre-season. We’re continuously getting better and I’m very pleased,” he said.

He said they could have scored more goals but felt “all three goals were great.”

Rodgers got the crowd cheering at the 52nd when he instructed “sub” Luis Suarez to warm up. The ace striker, who’s involved in swirling transfer talks, checked in seven minutes later and got applause every time he touched the ball. Suarez made at least two attempts, including a header that hit the bar and a looper that went harmlessly to the right of the net.

“He’s still some way to go. You know, he’s a number of weeks behind other players (in fitness level),” said of Suarez.

“We also have to consider our focus in this tour is on the first game (against Stoke City on Aug. 17). And Luis won’t be available for the first game (due to suspension). But he’s pretty much part of the group and he’s working hard on the condition,” he added.

Arsenal has made a move to acquire Suarez  but its two offers have been rejected by the Merseyside club.

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