29th November 1998 – Liverpool 2 – 0 Blackburn Rovers (Anfield)
A day that would be looked back on as one of the most important days in this great club’s history.
The match itself pales in significance to the Premier League debut of a young, gritty, boyhood Red who would cement himself as arguably the greatest to ever pull on a Reds shirt. Of course, I’m referring to our own Steven Gerrard, who would replace Vegard Heggem under Gerard Houllier’s instructions and get a brief run out.
This would be the first of 504 league games for Gerrard and the first of 710 total games in a Reds shirt.
Liverpool were actually going into this game on the back of three successive home defeats and nine matches without a clean sheet so any Rovers fan would understandably be quietly optimistic heading into this one.
However, unfortunate circumstances left Blackburn being forced to field essentially a reserve side. Caretaker boss Tony Parkes would find himself with a selection headache, due to important first-team players like Tim Flowers, Tim Sherwood and Chris Sutton missing out through injuries and suspensions.
Returning Reds skipper Paul Ince would make the breakthrough 30 minutes in with a goal he’ll never forget. Robbie Fowler played the ball to his feet a good 30 yards out, Ince took a stride forward to ready himself and drove it in off the left post for his fifth goal of the season.
Ince’s involvement wouldn’t end there as three minutes later his cross fell to an unmarked Robbie Fowler who couldn’t get a real connection on the ball but it fortunately fell to the feet of 19 year old Michael Owen, who had his first shot blocked, but reacted instinctively to drive in the rebound from six yards out.
Chances would continue to fall for Owen and Fowler who were threatening the Blackburn goal in the second half. Patrik Berger had a good chance to kill the game off from Jamie Redknapp’s free kick but he could only divert it over the bar. Blackburn, sensing Liverpool’s inability to kill the game off, found a few chances of their own.
Blake, who was particularly quiet in this game, got on the end of Damien Duff’s pass but drove his low shot wide of the post. A Liverpool defence that had been slaughtered by every critic in recent weeks looked far from comfortable, but lack of quality on Blackburn’s side meant they held on for a clean sheet and most importantly the three points.
Who would’ve thought that the thin-faced Scouser donning the No. 28 shirt would go on to win nearly everything there is to win as captain of Liverpool Football Club? And perhaps the biggest question of all, how’s Vegard Heggem doing these days?
PAUL INCE 30’
MICHAEL OWEN 33’