A thoroughly entertaining 90 minutes concluded with a 2-2 draw between a local Liverpool legends team and their international counterparts at the 'Celebration of the 96' charity match at Anfield on Monday.

The match was the centrepiece of a full day of events and activities, organised by the Hillsborough Family Support Group to not only raise funds but also celebrate the lives of the 96 people who died at the stadium disaster on April 15, 1989.

Robbie Fowler added yet another goal in front of the Kop to his volume with seconds remaining in the opening period, only for Istanbul 2005 star Vladimir Smicer to equalise almost immediately after the interval.

Bruno Cheyrou earned the global XI an advantage with a powerful conversion midway through the half, and John Bishop missed a late penalty. That proved costly, as at the other end Fowler made no mistake from 12 yards to salvage a deserved and fitting draw.

A sold-out Anfield welcomed their one-time playing heroes with huge cheers as the names of men who will always be remembered fondly by Kopites were read out one by one before the encounter got underway.

After an opening five minutes in which both sides simply enjoyed the opportunity to spread passes around on the ground they used to call home, Michael Owen stooped low to glance a header wide from Gary McAllister's carefully measured cross into the area - although the linesman's flag was raised in any case.

Luis Garcia curled a soft effort from the left corner of the box straight into David James' hands, and Michael Thomas did likewise at the other end to Sander Westerveld. The goalkeeper then shifted out rapidly at his near post to thwart Steve McManaman, who had dashed into space to collect a Fowler pass.

Another delightful lofted cross from the left foot of McAllister almost created the opener; Owen stretched to flick goalwards but hit the crossbar. The Scot was involved at the other end, with Garcia tumbling under his challenge and asking for a penalty. Nothing given.

The Spaniard perhaps should have found the target when assisted by Smicer, who fooled the local legends defence with fleet of foot, but his poked attempt was too close to James, who calmly handled to ensure the score remained goalless.

David Burrows nodded off target at the back post from a corner, Fowler's expert dink towards the far corner was stopped by Westerveld and Garcia side-footed wide to the left after his own close-control trickery had formed an opportunity.

Those in attendance were brought to their feet two minutes before the break, though, as Fowler raced in behind the international legends defence, stepped around the onrushing Westerveld and tapped into an empty Kop end net.


A raft of changes were undertaken by the managers - Kenny Dalglish for the local team and Gerard Houllier for the international side - at the break, with the likes of John Aldridge and Ian Rush lacing up their boots and taking to the field.

Spurred into action, the international legends responded within moments of the second half beginning, as an ambitious shot by Smicer took a wicked deflection off Thomas and flew past the reach of James between the posts.

Cheyrou dispatched a lofted chip which barely troubled James, but the former England international was forced into a sprawl to his right and punch clear when the same opponent powered a low blast from the very next attack.

The Frenchman was not to be denied, however, and when a precise attack by Houllier's charges saw comedian Bishop smash a strike unluckily against the post, Cheyrou scooped up the rebound on the right channel and hammered in at the near post.

Westerveld smartly prevented Aldridge from notching at close range with little over five minutes remaining on the clock, before Bishop missed a penalty for the international outfit after Burrows had fouled Bjorn Tore Kvarme.

In the final minute, there was further spot-kick drama; Sami Hyypia was penalised and Fowler was handed responsibility - despite the introduction of Dalglish to the action - and he clipped perfectly into the top corner for 2-2 and a share of the trophy.

Local legends team: James, Jones, McAteer, Burrows, McAllister, Thomas, Barnes, McManaman, Owen, Fowler, Wright, Wark, Kennedy, McMahon, Thompson, Redknapp, Whelan, Rush, Aldridge.

International legends team: Westerveld, Babbel, Hyypia, Bjornebye, Kvarme, Hamann, Molby, Cheyrou, Smicer, Garcia, Litmanen, Xavier, Diao, Heggem, Bishop.