The Castlewood Group Liverpool Masters: Singapore Ex-Internationals 1-3 Liverpool Masters
Emile Heskey’s opener and a Lim Tong Hai own goal saw the hosts go two goals down inside 18 minutes in front of a packed Jalan Besar Stadium, before Jari Litmanen put the result to bed 12 minutes into the second half.
Rafi Ali’s late header gave the Singaporeans some joy but not the victory in a game which was played over two halves of 35 minutes each.
Despite the rain delaying the kick off by half an hour, there was no dampening the spirits of those Reds fans who turned up.
A rousing rendition of the famous “You’ll Never Walk Alone” anthem was belted out as Heskey, clearly lifted by the atmosphere, almost put the Liverpool Masters ahead after four minutes.
The Singapore veterans was not overawed by their more illustrious opponents though, as they broke into the final third on a couple of occasions within the opening minutes.
Legendary forward V Sundramoorthy - recently sacked by Malaysian Premier League side Negri Sembilan - had an opportunity to give the home side the lead in the ninth minute, but took too long to pull the trigger inside the box.
That soon proved costly as Heskey slammed home a clinical finish just a minute later, with Robbie Fowler pouncing on Singapore full-back Nahar Daud’s poorly-hit free-kick in the build-up.
Bouyed by the goal, the Reds poured forward, with Heskey prodding wide shortly thereafter.
Steve McManaman pulled all the strings from the middle of the park, while David Thompson provided good width down the right.
Another goal looked inevitable as Singapore fell further onto the back foot, and it materialised under bizarre circumstances 18 minutes in.
Litmanen lifted a cross into the box after seeing his header tipped wide earlier by Singapore keeper Rezal Hassan, and centre-back Lim somehow managed to head the ball into his own goal.
Left with a mountain to climb, Singapore rallied and forced Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek into a series of saves.
The 41-year-old, who was the hero for the Reds in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final, smothered a Fandi shot inside the box before stretching to push a couple of long-range Rafi Ali shots wide.
The Liverpool Legends held out till half time for player-manager Ian Rush to bring on Dietmar Hamann and Michael Thomas on for McManaman and Patrik Berger, giving the Reds the legs to continue dominating proceedings.
Rezal, who won the 1998 Tiger Cup with the national team, was forced to produce stops on Fowler and Litmanen before getting back in time to save Thompson’s point-blank shot on the goalline.
However, there was no stopping the Red tide as they went three goals up after the break.
A left-wing cross fell into the path of Litmanen after Hamann’s dummy for the former Finland captain to exquisitely chip over Rezal’s despairing dive.
There were more chances for the Reds as Berger came back on as a rolling substitute and hit the post after rounding substitute keeper Shahri Rahim.
The biggest cheers of the night ultimately went to Rush when the Anfield icon eventually introduced himself 14 minutes from the end, although he failed to make a significant impact.
Instead, it was the Singapore veterans who finished the game on a positive note as they left the Liverpool backline for dead on a few occasions before grabbing a consolation.
Aleksandar Duric, playing in his testimonial match, first squared the ball for Rafi who failed to get a decent connection in front of goal, before captain Fandi Ahmad lashed just over Dudek’s bar.
The Pole was eventually beaten right after the hour mark as Rafi, coach of Tampines Rovers in the S.League, leapt highest to nod home Steven Tan’s superb delivery from the right wing.
Substitute Dalis Supait forced one final save from Dudek before the Reds ran out winners in a pulsating affair.
Liverpool Masters XI: Jerzy Dudek (GK); Jan Kromkamp, Steve Harkness, Phil Babb (Stephane Henchoz 36’) , Bjorn Tore Karme; David Thompson, Steve McManaman (Dietmar Hamann 36’), Patrik Berger (Michael Thomas 36’), Robbie Fowler; Jari Litmanen (Ian Rush 57’); Emile Heskey.
Singapore Ex-Internationals XI: Rezal Hassan (Shahri Rahim 53’); S Subramani (Dalis Supait 45’), Lim Tong Hai, Aide Iskandar (Syed Faruk 45’), Nahar Daud; Steven Tan, Rafi Ali, Nazri Nasir; V Sundramoorthy (Malek Awab 59’); Aleksandar Duric; Fandi Ahmad.