July 2019: CITY 1 (Doyle pen 81) LIVERPOOL 3

A VIRTUAL sell-out crowd saw Eoin Doyle score his last goal at Valley Parade.

In the week that Bolton are poised to announce his signing on a three-year deal, it is coming up to 12 months since he raised his arms to the home faithful in triumph.

Doyle would net once more for City in a friendly at Rochdale that was abandoned at half-time because of Biblical rain.

But his final Valley Parade goal for the club before that loan move to Swindon arrived on a far more memorable occasion.

There were 24,343 people there to see it – City’s biggest home crowd since Valley Parade was rebuilt after the fire.

Doyle’s late consolation from the penalty spot was a footnote of a day that was about far greater things. But nobody is going to turn their nose up about scoring against the European – and would-be Premier League – champions.

Securing a friendly against such vaunted opposition was a massive coup in itself and Liverpool’s visit did not disappoint.

Most importantly, more than £275,000 was raised for the Darby Rimmer MND foundation in the fight for Stephen Darby, his friend Chris Rimmer and countless others against the brutal motor neurone disease.

The afternoon was full of emotion and poignant moments – none more so than the stirring renditions of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Stephen Darby baby” before the game.

But a full house then fell silent as the former defender addressed the fans from the centre circle.

The contest itself was a mere warm-up ahead of the season. Liverpool were jetting off to America straight afterwards for a week-long tour.

City’s pre-season fixture list had a strange look with such an illustrious opponent sandwiched between visits to Guiseley and Brighouse Town.

Gary Bowyer had joked of taking the ball away in training sessions beforehand because they wouldn’t be seeing much of it anyway.

He was not wrong as Liverpool had nearly 77 per cent of the possession, won all 12 of the corners and had 19 of the game’s 21 shots.

In the circumstances, a 3-1 loss was a pretty acceptable verdict for the Bantams – who could also claim the glory of “winning” the second half courtesy of Doyle’s spot-kick.

City had held out for 13 minutes before Liverpool delighted their huge travelling support with an opening goal. Ironically it came from a one-time Everton head.

James Vaughan inadvertently provided the decisive touch from opposing skipper James Milner’s shot with a diving header beyond Richard O’Donnell.

The visitors needed only another 120 seconds before doubling their advantage.

Ryan Kent exchanged passes with Ryan Brewster to burst into the City box where he was bundled over by Sean Scannell.

O’Donnell guessed the right way with Milner’s penalty but it was well placed into the bottom corner.

The City stopper produced a fine one-handed save to deny winger Harry Wilson from close range before the home crowd thought they had a goal to cheer – only for Ben Richards-Everton’s effort from Matt Palmer’s free-kick to be ruled out for offside.

Simon Mignolet athletically pushed Vaughan’s header on to the post before Liverpool made it 3-0 just before the break.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s surging run released Kent before he got the ball back to shoot from the edge of the box. Jackson Longridge made a sliding block but the rebound fell for Brewster to tuck home from a tight angle.

Another presentation during the break as Milner handed over a cheque for £40,000 from his own foundation to the MND charity reminded everyone the real point of the day.

Being pre-season, it was all change for both teams for the second half – only Anthony O’Connor, a first-half replacement for Richards-Everton, and Mignolet stayed on.

The action became more disjointed but Liverpool still had further chances to increase their lead. Curtis Jones and Liam Miller both went close with City sub keeper Sam Hornby saving well.

But the Bantams got the home fans on their feet with nine minutes left after Clayton Donaldson had his heels clipped by Adam Lewis as he chased Connor Wood’s cross in the corner of the penalty area.

Doyle duly did the honours before the Kop for one final time.

CITY (first half): O’Donnell, Henley, Mellor, Richards-Everton (O’Connor 32), Longridge, Gibson, Akpan, Palmer, Scannell, Vaughan, Patrick.

CITY (second half): Hornby, Nortey, French, O’Connor, Riley, Ainsworth (Morris 82), Taylor, Devine, Wood (Shanks 82), Doyle, Donaldson.

LIVERPOOL (first half): Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Larouci, Milner, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilson, Kent, Brewster.