It’s just turned 6:20pm and on the corner of Arkles Lane and Anfield Road, the welcoming committee has gathered. They are singing their songs, waving their scarves and flags and plumes of red smoke are billowing down the road.
No big Liverpool occasion would be complete without this kind of scene – and this is the biggest occasion for four years – but not everyone is happy. Arkles Lane has been closed to traffic since 2pm and the row of metal crash barriers have been erected either side of the road explains why.
‘It wasn’t like this before Man City,’ chunters one fan. ‘They’ve taken away the spontaneity.’
The reception wasn’t quite the same as it was for the Manchester City quarter-final
Anfield was rocking for another classic Champions League night in Liverpool
In some respect, he is right. The element that made these occasions special in the past was that they happened off-the-cuff. Now it feels staged and, sure enough, when Liverpool’s bus arrives, it zooms past at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace.
There is, of course, a valid reason. The disgraceful scenes before the first leg of the quarter-final against Manchester City changed the landscape and the actions of a mindless few have ruined it for the many. Liverpool and Merseyside Police simply cannot afford a repeat.
In their florescent jackets, the Police presence is huge.
In the bushes of Stanley Park, one female officer has video camera surveying the landscape, recording everything, but there will not be any trouble here. Words reaches that Roma’s coach has come via an alternative route and the crowd disperses.
Still, the mood is good. Soon, however, it will turn dark. There is history between Liverpool and Roma fans, dating back to the 1984 European Cup final and outside the Albert Pub, a gang of 20-30 Italians ambush a group of home supporters.
Roma supporters attacked a Liverpool fan outside Anfield ahead of their clash on Tuesday
One Roma supporter was pictured carrying a hammer on his way to the attack at Anfield
Eyewitnesses describe the incident as some of the worst violence they have seen. One Liverpool fan is left unconscious. This gang, wielding belts and swinging liberally, are hell-bent on causing mayhem. Reports soon emerge of a similar attack outside The Park pub.
Thankfully, the heavy police presence ensures the violence does not explode. They swoop in their droves and isolate the issues. There are suggestions that a Liverpool fan has been stabbed but the club quickly confirm that is not the case.
When the news filters through of what has happened, though, there are concerns about what may be in store next week. Rome might be one of the world’s most beautiful cities but in terms of football fans, its reputation is dark and the sinister. Liverpool will hope and pray the second leg of this contest can pass without incident.
Jurgen Klopp orchestrated the crowd and was his typical self on the sidelines
The banners, flags and scarfs were out in force as ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rang out
Perhaps what has happened in the previous hour has an impact on the immediate build up to kick-off. The cacophony is huge but it is nothing in comparison to 2005, the night this venue shook when Chelsea arrived blocking the way to Istanbul.
In the early stages, Roma look confident and strong and you can sense the nerves. There is anxiety that Liverpool have not scored a quick goal and nerves fray when Loris Karius somehow allows a shot from Aleksander Kolarov to squirm through his grasp and hit the bar.
You are taken back to the April 28, 2014 and it feels like the day Chelsea came to town and wreck what many envisaged would be the day that Liverpool become champions of England once again. One away goal early on and the balloon would have been popped.
Soon enough, however, they find their rhythm. The mantra for this European campaign has been “Allez! Allez! Allez!” and the song that goes before that chant is being aired at frequent intervals.
“We’ve conquered all of Europe,” the Kop bellows. “We’re never gonna stop, from Paris down to Turkey, we’ve won the f******* lot! Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly, the fields of Anfield Road, we are the supporters and we come from Liverpool!”
The Reds stormed to a two-goal lead in the first half and the supporters went wild
The Liverpool fans created a terrific atmosphere that the opposition struggled to handle
And they may well indeed conquer Europe once again. Anfield has witnessed some remarkable nights but this must surely have entered the top five for the rampant way they dismantled their shell-shocked opponents, with Mohamed Salah shimmering.
Never mind being the PFA Player of the Year, this was a performance that stamped out as a genuine Ballon d’Or contender. His input is enormous in a magical period of football, perhaps the best 25 minutes Liverpool have ever produced under Jurgen Klopp. The noise reflects it.
They might not have been able to give Liverpool’s players the welcome they wanted but the supporters have now got a team to make them dream and they responded with those songs, those plumes of smoke and made Anfield a sea of colour.
It should have stayed that way before they carelessly switched off in the final 10 minutes. If this odyssey is to reach the dream conclusion in Kiev, another show of spirit and courage and more besides will be required.