On this day 18 years ago, Liverpool took on Crystal Palace in a crucial Worthington Cup semi-final.
A shock 2-1 victory in the first leg meant that the tie was in Palace’s hands as they headed to Anfield. However football fans all over the world would agree that coming to Anfield and getting any sort of result was no easy feat.
Gerard Houllier’s side were quietly optimistic in their hopes of challenging for three competitions – the Worthington Cup (now the Carabao Cup), the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup – and should they dispose of Palace, the first of those three should be well within their sights.
Young striker Clinton Morrison had some choice words for Liverpool in victory in the first leg, taunting the Liverpool strike force for their shortcomings in front of goal.
It is clear that those words would serve as the team talk the Reds needed, fuelling their fire going into the second leg. Morrison would learn that in football, nothing is certain and that it’s best to stay quiet.
From the very beginning, Liverpool played with the fire and determination Anfield so often expects and is used to seeing. The Palace defence seemed bemused by the great stadium, almost like a deer in headlights.
The man who kept Liverpool’s hopes alive at Selhurst Park, Vladimir Smicer, would deliver for the Reds once again as he chased an excellent ball from Robbie Fowler and finished with aplomb. It was all to play for now and everyone watching got the feeling Liverpool were far from done there.
Only two minutes would pass before a fine Jari Litmanen cross found Danny Murphy in the Palace penalty area, and Murphy showed his quality with an audacious volley. As it stood, Liverpool were heading to Wembley.
Three minutes later, captain Robbie Fowler would have his say, backheeling the ball into the path of Igor Biscan near the half-way line. The Croatian raced towards goal before striking across Kolinko into the top right corner.
As if Morrison wasn’t feeling bad enough, 40,000 fans in the stands endulged in a rousing rendition of “Clinton, what’s the score? Clinton, Clinton, what’s the score?”. Such is the beauty of football.
More chances would follow from both sides before the break, a Tommy Black free kick was forced over the bar by Sander Westerveld but Liverpool held their lead through to half time. Not long after the interval, Danny Murphy would bag his brace with a fine solo effort. Four for Liverpool and surely that’s the tie wrapped up.
The Palace goalkeeper had seen enough, bringing down Robbie Fowler outside the penalty area and getting himself sent off in the process. The final action of the game would be a fifth goal for Liverpool, with Fowler finally getting his reward for a fine captain’s performance, relentlessly striking past the replacement keeper Matt Gregg.
Job done for Houllier’s Reds.