In preparation for the 2006 season, Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool FC competed in Germany after an FA Cup win against the brave Mainz team. Your manager, a 39 year old Jürgen Klopp.
After the Miracle of Istanbul, Benitez regrouped his Reds and took them to third place in the Premier League, along with silver in the FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup.
It’s been a promising season for Liverpool and they went into pre-season with Craig Bellamy, Gabriel Paletta, Fabio Aurelio and Jermaine Pennant making their signings for Benitez’s third season.
The early stages of summer saw victories over Wrexham and Crewe Alexandra before the Reds embarked on a preseason tour that made stops in Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Germany.
With defeats against Kaiserslautern and Grasshopper Zurich things didn’t go as hoped before they led to Mainz for the final warm-up for the Champions League qualification against Maccabi Haifa.
Mainz was preparing for his third season in the Bundesliga under Klopp, who retired as a coach in the middle of the 2000/01 season.
At this point, Klopp was established and popular in his role, with Mainz finishing 11th in the league last season and their momentum leading to a memorable test victory.
Benitez named his strongest side of the pre-season, including starts for Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia and the newcomers Pennant and Bellamy.
After an even start, the mistakes crept in for Liverpool when Scott Carson gave Markus Feulner a clear view of the goal, only to block the midfielder’s attempt.
Liverpool panicked when Feulner, Tobias Damm and Mimoun Azaouagh all threatened in the first half and needed saves from Carson and one final block from Hyypia to keep them in the game.
But after the break the lock gates creaked when Feulner took the lead in the 46th minute after a sloppy evacuation attempt by Jan Kromkamp.
After an unexpected lead from Mainz, Klopp was overjoyed on the sidelines when Damm scored the 2-0 just after an hour in which Benitez sent Momo Sissoko, John Arne Riise, Lee Peltier and Salif Diao.
There were few bright spots for Liverpool and their misery was made worse with three goals in five minutes when the game resulted in a miserable 5-0 defeat.
A misplaced back pass from Riise allowed Fatmir Pupalovic to shoot home before mistakes by Diao and Jack Hobbs made one by Chadli Amri and another by Pupalovic a priceless win for Klopp’s Mainzer.
Over 20,000 spectators watched Benitez’s team disband on the pitch and the coach regretted his team’s persistent mistakes during the pre-season phase.
Fortunately, Liverpool got out of their difficult start and reached the Champions League final next season, albeit at a loss, when AC Milan retaliated in Athens.
As for Klopp, it was his first meeting with the team he was to lead nine years later; Little did he know that one day he would be sitting in the dugout Benitez called home.
Mainz 5-0 Liverpool
Preparation game, Bruchwegstadionstad
August 4, 2006
Gates: Feulner 46, Damm 65, Pupalovic 85 90, Amri 87
Mainz: Wache (Ischdonat 87), Demirtas (Cha 68), Noveski (Gunesch 30), Friedrich (Banouas 87), Rose (Weiglet 82), Gerber (M.Vrancic 68 ′), Azaouagh (Pupalovic 82), Pekovic (D. Vrancic 87), Feulner (Barbarz 82), Diakite (Jovanovic 82 ′), Damm (Amri 68 ′)
Liverpool: Carson; Kromkamp (Peltier 62), Carragher (Hobbs 81), Hyypia (Paletta 46), Traore; Pennant (Anderson 46), Alonso (Sissoko 62), Gerrard (Garcia 73), Zenden (Riise 62); Crouch, Bellamy (Diao 62 ′)