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Jul 24, 2013

Liverpool beat Victory 2-0 in friendly

The leading man starred. So too the hometown boy. The hero who might yet turn villain played his part. The support cast was excellent, as was the atmosphere.

In terms of sporting theatre, English Premier League giants Liverpool's first visit to Australia produced a perfect night of entertainment.

And it ended with the ideal scoreline.

The 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory at a packed MCG on Wednesday night gave everyone - even the losing team - some kind of feelgood factor to take away.

Once the spine-tingling sound of 95,446 singing You'll Never Walk Alone - the club's long-time pre-match anthem - faded, the pre-season friendly proved just as memorable.

The wonderful Steven Gerrard, cheered at every corner by every corner of the packed MCG, scored a superb first-half goal to delight the Liverpool fans.

Liverpool's Australian goalkeeper Brad Jones was forced into quality saves in each half.

Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, who apparently wants out of Merseyside, played the final 18 minutes to rousing cheers to suggest Liverpool aren't seriously entertaining Arsenal's overtures to buy him.

And an understrength Victory also held up the A-League's end of the bargain, playing decent possession football and testing Liverpool at times, especially in the first half-hour.

But it was Gerrard who unlocked a seemingly watertight Victory in the 32nd minute.

His neat stepover allowed midfielder Joe Allen to run at the defence, then return a pass for Gerrard to hammer home from the poacher's void just inside the box he fills like no other Englishman.

The Victory produced a much stiffer, more composed performance than the A-League All-Stars thrown together and battered by Manchester United in Sydney a few days earlier.

Andrew Nabbout and Connor Pain, among seven players under the age of 21 in Victory's starting line-up, could have had goals against Liverpool were it not for excellent Jones saves.

Gerrard made way on the hour, and then Suarez made his way on to the ground among wholesale substitutions in the 72nd minute.

And he created the second goal in stoppage time with a delightful spin around a defender, before supplying a pass for Iago Aspas to tap in.

Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe also made several memorable saves, while Pain's performance tormenting England international Glen Johnson down one wing earned post-match praise from Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

The Reds boss was also complimentary about Victory's commitment to playing possession football under Ange Postecoglou, as well as the phenomenal atmosphere.

"The coach is outstanding. I've had a couple of chats with him, and to see his team play - he's very similar to myself in he believes the game should be played a certain way," Rodgers said.

"You can see the team are very well coached ... the star of their team is the team.

"Performance-wise I was very pleased with our team. We kept good possession and waited for the moments to score."

Postecoglou was pleased with his youthful side's performance - particularly happy they weren't overawed by the occasion.

"It would have been very easy for the boys to go into their shells," Postecoglou said.

"I'm sure they'll grow from tonight. That was our main mission - to make sure our young players got self-belief in themselves and what we do, and I think we got that in bucketloads."

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