He also encountered the formidable Anfield crowd for the first time. Watching the Kop put the Reds on the road to Istanbul as they sucked Luis Garcia's controversial shot inches over the line, Rodgers publicly lamented the decision but privately was impressed with the capacity of Kopites to have such a huge influence on proceedings.
Fast forward eight years and Rodgers was relying on the Kop to work its magic again to help dig his team out of a considerable hole they had got themselves into. Attempting to recover from a two-goal first leg deficit for only the second time in their history, it was an evening in which Rodgers could have enjoyed an epic European match and therefore establish himself as Liverpool manager and immeasurably improve his reputation.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Although the Reds' response to conceding an away goal had all the hallmarks of a European comeback to remember, they fell just short, unable to score the fourth goal they needed to progress during the final half hour against Russian side Zenit St Petersburg.
It was arguably a match that encapsulated the Merseysiders' first season during Brendan Rodgers' time in charge. Promising so much, but lacking a finished product. Taking two steps forward, then one step back. Raising our hopes, but leaving us disappointed.
When he arrived in June, Rodgers had the backing of most supporters. Liverpool fans are a knowledgeable bunch and knew returning to greatness- or even competitiveness- would be a long and painful process. He may not have managed a top team before, but his record at Swansea was impressive, and the style of play he deployed positively mouthwatering to Kopites longing for a return to the good old days of pass and move in the Liverpool groove.
As the season has panned out since, there's little doubt that Liverpool's style of play has improved, although they were hardly playing unattractive football under previous incumbent Kenny Dalglish. Results have been little better then under the much maligned Roy Hodgson, though, which is worrying.
Floundering in mid-table, the Reds had remarkably failed to beat a team in the top ten until their victory over Rodgers' former employers Swansea midway through February. Sure, they had played well against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City, but taking three points from them proved to be too difficult a task.
|Flummoxed- Rodgers' failure to convert performances into points is puzzling|
A perfect example of this came against Zenit, when both Agger and Enrique almost cost the Reds a goal when they tried to play out from the back instead of just thumping clear. Later in that half, however, Liverpool played a beautiful string of passes together to work their way out of a tight position, as most fans were probably yelling at them to hoof it long already.
Rodgers' tactical naivety was also arguably displayed on that night. Making a double substitution after netting the third goal disrupted the team's momentum unnecessarily. Rafael Benitez was regularly, and with some justification, condemned for failing to make substitutions early enough.
However, he was right in arguing that disrupting the flow of a team that is doing the right things, creating chances and dominating play by making substitutions is unwise and I can't help thinking that the Spaniard would have been able to oversee a completed comeback against Zenit, rather than the glorious failure we witnessed with Rodgers at the helm.
At only 40 years old, though, Rodgers is a young manager with plenty of time to develop his tactical nous and fine tune his philosophy. His style of play is commendable, enjoyable and encouraging. Whether it will produce results quick enough to satisfy FSG and the supporters and keep him in a job is another question all together.
Eliminated from all cup competitions and with Champions League qualification a distant dream, Liverpool only have Europa League qualification left to play for this season. You couldn't blame someone wanting the season to be over now so we can start all over again. However, that epic European night at Anfield against Zenit, although tinged with disappointment, could provide the motivation for a late push up the table.
The intoxicating thrill of the atmosphere at Anfield on a big European night is what makes enduring all the ups and downs that come from following Liverpool FC worthwhile. Those nights make us special and unique. They set us apart from lesser clubs. And we want more of them.
That hunger to get this club back where it belongs- playing in and winning big European matches- is what will provide the purpose for the rest of the season and hopefully ensure a good run in towards the end of the campaign.