The ‘Three Amigos’ picked up where they left off 20 years ago to illuminate the annual Joseph’s Goal charity match at Ashton Town FC.
But it was Arjan de Zeeuw’s Dutch Masters who pipped the Latics Legends to the ultimate spoils in a seven-goal thriller in front of another bumper crowd.
Jesus Seba had given the Latics Legends the perfect start when his early shot sneaked in at the near post despite the best attempts of former Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld to keep it out – followed by the famous ‘matador’ celebration from all those years ago.
And the script-writers excelled themselves again shortly after when Isidro Diaz raced on to a pinpoint through ball, and produced an exquisite chipped finish that Westerveld could only watch fly over his head and into the net.
With Roberto Martinez – the third ‘Amigo’ – pulling the strings in midfield, alongside tough-tackling twins Michael Brown and Jason Jarrett, supporting lone frontman Graeme Jones, it seemed only a matter of time before the home side added to their lead.
At the other end, the Latics defence – comprised of Nicky Eaden, Kevin Sharp, Paul Scharner and skipper Emmerson Boyce – were giving the visitors little in the way of encouragement.
But the Dutch showed great fighting spirit to pull one back through Romano Denneboom – the first goal the Joseph’s Goal Latics Legends had conceded in their three matches to date.
And it was 2-2 at the break when ex-Ajax and Feyenoord striker Angelos Charisteas – who scored the winning goal in the final of Euro 2004 against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal – netted with a deadly finish.
Boosted by fresh legs off the bench – in the form of Gary Teale, Nathan Ellington, Ian Kilford, Graham Lancashire, Stuart Barlow, Peter Atherton and John Doolan – Latics went for the jugular in the second period, but were caught on the break as the Dutch took the lead through Ellery Cairo.
Latics dodged another bullet when the Dutch were awarded a penalty by referee Gordon Johnson, only for Gerald Sibon’s spot-kick to be brilliantly saved by Lee Novak, who had just replaced Andrew Dawber between the sticks.
However, De Zeeuw – who else – did make it four with a rasping strike from the edge of the area that almost ripped the net from its hinges.
Latics were given a lifeline in the way of a stonewall penalty, which ‘Duke’ Ellington tucked away in typically laid-back fashion to ensure a grandstand finish.
However, the Dutch held on, the final whistle arriving before Latics – roared on by management team Neill Rimmer and Graham Barrow – could grab a last-gasp leveller.
But the bumper crowd were treated to a filling feast of fantasy football that will give them something to look back on over the summer months.