Napoli thrash Liverpool on Murrayfield’s red letter day

You’ll Never Walk Alone. Certainly not through Murrayfield’s streets when football’s European champions and Serie A runners-up are in town.

Andy Robertson poses for a selfie with fans at Murrayfield. Picture: Getty.
Andy Robertson poses for a selfie with fans at Murrayfield. Picture: Getty.

Crowded capital pavements buzzed with Scouse accents and Italian elegance yesterday, interspersed with a fair degree of Scottish brogue.

Overlooking the controversy of staging a pre-season friendly between Liverpool and Napoli at the home of Scottish rugby, the atmosphere generated was unique.

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Carlo Ancelotti’s family in nearby Penicuik would doubtless agree. The Napoli manager has relatives in Midlothian since his mother-in-law married a Scot.

He wasn’t exactly on unfamiliar territory but this was his club’s first visit to Edinburgh since a 5-0 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup thumping by Hibs in November 1967.

This time Napoli ran out comfortable winners despite Liverpool’s Champions League heroes carrying a higher profile. The giant European trophy accompanying the Merseysiders to Edinburgh for public photographs also drew a bit of attention.

You would normally expect a glamour pre-season affair of this magnitude to take place amid stifling Singaporean humidity or exaggerated North American fanfare.

Because of maintenance work to the Anfield pitch, it was being staged beneath Scotland’s summer clouds. Football in this country was the loser financially, though.

The Scottish Rugby Union sold out its headquarters, with 65,442 fans paying between £28 and £67 per seat. The SRU is expected to earn a six-figure net profit and football traditionalists are understandably against rugby’s coffers swelling from their sport. Plenty of others didn’t care less, underlined by the attendance. It was the biggest crowd for a football match in Scotland in 30 years since the 1989 Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park.

Swathes of people crammed the main entrance and surrounding stairways as the respective team coaches pulled up. Scotland captain Andy Robertson was one everybody wanted a glimpse of.

His manager, Jurgen Klopp is now a demigod following May’s Champions League success.

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Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Alisson Becker are still on summer holidays after international duty, but Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson and other Anfield luminaries were present.

Napoli missed Kalidou Koulibaly and the Brazilian Allan for similar reasons but still fielded household names Dries Mertens, Arek Milik and Lorenzo Insigne for their fourth meeting with Liverpool inside 12 months.

Insigne was to enjoy the day even more than the SRU’s accountant.

With everyone safely inside, it was time for that anthem. It’s not Liverpool without a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before kick-off. This was Murrayfield but it might as well have been The Kop.

Goosebumps are goosebumps no matter where you are. The next chant was almost as familiar: “Oh, Andy, Andy.” You know the rest.

Robertson’s first cross of the game on five minutes was flicked tamely wide by striker Divock Origi from five yards. Perhaps he only scores in Champions League finals these days.

Insigne struck on 17 minutes with a goal fit for any occasion. Napoli’s captain sprinted down the left flank and cut inside to plant an arcing finish into the bottom corner past Klopp’s deputy goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet.

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That produced sufficient cheer to suggest plenty people in the stands weren’t preoccupied with Liverpool.

They weren’t even wearing red, after all. Milik doubled the Italians’ lead just before the half-hour with a first-time prodded finish from Insigne’s cross.

The diminutive No 24 wasn’t finished. After half-time, his decisive run ended with a shot parried by Mignolet before the ball ricocheted to land at substitute Amin Younes’ feet for a simple tap-in.

In the battle of two culture clubs, this was turning into an Italian masterclass. Liverpool’s loudest roar of the day was in appreciation when Robertson came off on 74 minutes.

The glitz of the occasion was petering out by then. Klopp’s players trudged through a full-time lap of honour after their 3-0 cuffing as the stadium PA system played The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love.

There was plenty of that from their adoring public, even though Napoli had triumphed by ruthlessly exploiting the wide-open English Premier League defence.

The game plugged a few holes in SRU coffers, though, so don’t bet against Murrayfield hosting more of these occasions in future.