Liverpool 4 Celtic 1.

More than 12,000 Celtic fans travelled south last night to reunite with their old friends from Merseyside for the celebration of Ronnie Moran's 50 years of sterling service at Liverpool and provided a party atmosphere that continued long after the lights went out at Anfield.

Celtic's defeat failed to dampen the enthusiasm of their followers - the night, after all, belonged to Moran; player, coach, and legen-dary member of the most famous bootroom in football.

He will benefit to the tune of #200,000, thanks to an attendance of around 33,300, but money has never been the motivation for a man who stands for all that is good and, sadly, all that has been lost to the game.

It was a fitting appreciation of the type of dedication that is likely to become extinct amid a lucre-driven revolution and friends, past and present, turned out to pay homage to the 66-year-old who helped shape the careers of many of the Anfield favourites who returned to pay homage, none more so than Kenny Dalglish.

Both sets of fans mingled since early afternoon, when they were invited to pay a floral tribute to those Liverpool fans killed during the Hillsborough disaster 11 years ago.

The emotion carried long into the night but there were a lot of laughs along the way, too, and the fun kicked off with a celebrity match involving Celtic and Liverpool players from yesteryear. There was a sprinkling of other famous faces from Merseyside, including some of those angst-ridden Scallies from Brookside Close. Bruce Grobbelaar made a return between the Anfield posts alongside former team-mates Ian Rush and Craig Johnstone.

The biggest cheer, however, was reserved for the man no doubt relieved to find sanctuary in an old stomping ground during turbu-lent times.

Kenny Dalglish, interim head coach at Celtic, left the pre-match team-talk to his assistant, Tommy Burns, while he pulled on the hooped No.7 shirt, only to swop it at the interval for the red of Liverpool and the less familiar No.8 jersey.

Former Anfield favourite Jason McAteer made a guest appearance for a Celtic side riddled by injuries and he was joined by Blackburn Rovers team-mate and Scottish internationalist Christian Dailly.

The introduction of Gerry Marsden, who was in hearty voice despite the fact he was without his Pacemakers, was a surprise of which local lass Cilla Black would have been proud and the two sets of fans cemented their historical friendship with a rousing rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' as the teams lined up either side of Moran and five replica European Cups, four belonging to the hosts and the other, of course, commemorating Celtic's famous triumph in 1967.

Traditionally, the main event has difficulty in producing a fitting climax to such a nostalgic evening, but the fans cared not a jot.

Those supporters who made the journey south to escape their domestic troubles were in particulary high spirits but their Old Firm rivals were never far from their thoughts, with less than complimentary words about Walter Smith, the former Ibrox manager now operating on the other side of the Merseyside divide, proving popular in the red sea.

Robbie Fowler was also on the receiving end of some jocular jeers as a consequence of his Rangers tendencies and he was met with a chorus of ironic cheers after squandering the first chance of the match, spooning ridiculously over the bar from six yards.

Calls of ''Fowler for Rangers'' greeted his every move but strike partner Titi Camara was afforded a more welcoming reception in light of the Guinean internationalist's recent revelation of his inexpli-cable affection for Parkhead.

Fowler almost produced the perfect riposte after 24 minutes of languid fare. He strode clear after a piercing pass from young Danny Murphy but shot straight at Stewart Kerr in the Celtic goal, an indication of his rustiness after another long spell on the sidelines.

Liverpool then took the lead in 38 minutes when Fowler floated the ball into the penalty area and German striker Eric Meijer got enough purchase on his head-flick to send it beyond the reach of Kerr.

Not before time, the game sprung into life and David Thompson ended the opening half in spectacular fashion hurtling a 30-yard howitzer past the bemused Celtic keeper.

Inevitably, a flurry of substitutions were made after the half-time cuppa, with Kerr making way for the man he has replaced as first-choice keeper in the run-in to the SPL season, Jonathan Gould.

Johan Mjallby and Olivier Tebily were also given a rest, with Stephen Crainey and Mark Burchill joining in the action.

Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier introduced Steven Gerrard and Sami Hyypia in place of Thompson and Stephane Henchoz.

Before long, the stadium erupted once again as Camara capitalised on some lackadaisical defending to shoot past Gould after 53 minutes.

Meijer was again on target in 68 minutes, reacting quickest to a cross from Steve Staunton to side-foot the ball out of Gould's reach.

Consolation was provided courtesy of Dailly, who clearly relished turning out for Celtic despite a busy evening in a fragile defence.

The man who cost Rovers #5m but has been informed by new manager Graeme Souness he no longer is required, got a vital touch to turn home a Lubo Moravcik miscued shot 14 minutes from time to give the visiting throng an excuse to cheer. Not that they needed one.

Moran paid tribute to the huge visiting support afterwards, when he said. ''Tonight will stay with me forever. I have seen many things in my career but never the support I had from the Celtic fans, even when their team were 4-1 down.

''It was unbelievable.''

Dalglish once again praised the Parkhead support to the hilt and reiterated that the club ''deserved better'' after a hugely disappointing domestic season, eased only by the collection of the CIS Insurance Cup. ''They (the fans) are the best. I have said that before, and it was no surprise to see the turn-out, but we were only bit-part players. The night belonged to him (Moran), and rightly so, He has made a huge contribution to Liverpool.''

He was also quick to point out that the appearance of McAteer and Dailly was purely a favour by Souness.

''We had a duty to play the strongest team we could for the testimonial and we are grateful to Blackburn for lending them to us.''

Liverpool - Friedel, Heggem, Staunton, Song, Henchoz, Murphy, Smicer, Thompson, Fowler, Meijer, Camara. Substitutes - Hyypia, Nielsen, Owen, Gerrard, Carracher, Matteo, Traore, Miles.

Celtic - Kerr, Stubbs, Tebily, Dailly, McAteer, Riseth, Lambert, Mjallby, Moravcik, Fotheringham, Johnson. Substitutes - Gould, Burchill, Lynch, Smith, Crainey, Kennedy.