Yawkey Way was a sea of red Wednesday night as fans flocked in big numbers and made their way towards Fenway Park. Boston’s beloved Red Sox were, however, not in action. Baseball was not even on the agenda for the night’s proceedings.
European soccer giants Liverpool and AS Roma took to the famous ballpark, transformed into a soccer field, for a friendly, as part of their U.S Tour. In a repeat of their last meeting at the same venue two years ago, the Italian club edged out their English rival 1-0.
Playing in front of a sell-out crowd under floodlights, the two clubs showed glimpses of the soccer prowess that has landed them a combined 21 league titles (18 premier league titles for Liverpool and three Serie A titles for Roma). It was not exactly the star-studded line-up fans would have hoped for, as Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was missing in action, as was Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi – nicknamed “Future Captain”. But that was not enough to dampen the spirits of those inside the stadium.
Chants of “Ole’, Ole’” and “Liverpool!” bellowed during the 90-minute exhibition match. With the start of their domestic leagues right around the corner, the two clubs eased their way around the makeshift field at a relaxed tempo and made substitutions generously.
There were few opportunities to score for either side with not a single shot on goal in the first half. Roma created more openings than Liverpool but could not get on the scoreboard. Their best chance came in the 33rd minute, when captain Francesco Totti, positioned in front of the open goal, fired Englishman Ashley Cole’s cross wide.
At half time, the veteran Gerrard, who retired from international soccer after the World Cup, walked onto the field in his flip flops to a rousing reception from the crowd. Liverpool looked dangerous at the start of the second half, when new signing Rickie Lambert hit form and came close to scoring twice. His 56th minute challenge, set up by Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho, was fended off by Roma goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski.
Eventually the Giallorossi sneaked out a win, courtesy of a late goal in the 89th minute by Marco Borriello, who connected with a corner kick. The ultimate shot was deflected by Liverpool defender Daniel Agger before dribbling past Reds goalkeeper Brad Jones.
Liverpool and Red Sox owner John Henry was in attendance for the game as was Roma owner James Pallotta, a Celtics shareholder and Boston native. In an attempt to build the Liverpool brand in Boston and cash in on the growing popularity of soccer in the U.S, this was the club’s second trip to Fenway.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said at the post-match press conference. “The support was great; brilliant from the supporters across the evening. Both sets of supporters were fantastic. For a preseason game, it was a really, really good game.”
With a round of 16 showing at the World Cup for the U.S, Rogers recognized the progress the team is making and how American fans are warming up to the sport.
“Every time I come back here I sense the enthusiasm for football,” Rodgers said. “I think it’s a really knowledgeable crowd here in America. A lot of the channels that I watch here show great coverage, great detail in the coverage of football. I just think it’s just a continuation of the last 15 years or so, where the sport has really grown.”
On a night when the Red Sox were playing an away game in Toronto, soccer took center stage at Fenway Park. But the grounds crew quickly got back to work early next morning to get things in order for Monday night’s game and for business as usual.