By James Miller – @JamesMillernews
The year 1977 is massive for anyone associated with Liverpool Football Club. A day that will live long in the memory for years to come. It was the year that the Reds toppled Europe and claimed their first European Cup, now known as the UEFA Champions League.
This was the catalyst for the Merseyside club to dominate Europe and become one of the greatest clubs to date in terms of European pedigree. Four more European Cup’s have since arrived at Anfield and the addition of a fifth extra may be confirmed later this week.
Looking back on what was a triumphant tournament for a Liverpool side managed by the legendary Bob Paisley, they started proceedings by hammering Crusaders from Belfast 7-0 over two legs. A statement of intent if ever there was one.
Getting through to the last eight wasn’t quite so straightforward. Liverpool let Turkish side Trabzonspor seize the advantage heading into the second leg, losing away from home 1-0. Thankfully, it turned out to be of little issue with Paisley’s men blowing their opponents away early on in the return leg.
The Reds gained a 3-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes and from then never really looked in trouble. A clean sheet ensured no way back for Trabzonspor and a 3-1 aggregate win.
There were plenty of quality sides left in the competition at the quarter-final stage as you would expect, and one of the biggest Bayern Munich – reigning champions and looking to leave their stamp in the history books as only the second side ever to win four European Cups on the spin. A sumptuous tie on paper but unfortunately non existent in reality, instead it was Saint Etienne for Emlyn Hughes and co.
Heading into the game, the statistics showed Liverpool in a far superior light in terms of goals. The French side had only managed two goals on their way to the quarters. However, statistics don’t always show the story in it’s true light and Saint Etienne were certainly not about to be rolled over.
The 1975/76 finalists proved to be a stern test and Liverpool were given questions to answer moving onto the second leg at Anfield. Another 1-0 loss in the first game meant a win via a two-goal margin was required and it was delivered too.
Arguably one of Liverpool’s greatest ever games in Europe, it really was a cracker. Just a couple of minutes in it was all square on aggregate thanks to a goal from Kevin Keegan. There was an early blow in the second half though as Dominique Bathenay equalised on the night and left the away side in pole position for back-to-back semi-final appearances.
With the goal coming 51 minutes in, Liverpool required two goals in the remaining 39 minutes. Just before the hour mark the tie was back on as Ray Kennedy scored to have Anfield bouncing. All square and all to play for.
It was a goal or bust Liverpool on Merseyside with Saint Etienne’s away goal a major asset to them. Just over quarter of an hour remained in the game and John Toshack came off for David Fairclough. The greatest substitution ever?
Ten minutes after his arrival, Fairclough took a ball on his chest from Kennedy before holding off a challenge from Christian Lopez and firing home to send Anfield into a frenzy and Liverpool into the semi-finals. The local lad put his club on route to a clash with Switzerland’s FC Zurich. One team away from the final and it was a dominant tie to say the least.
They trailed early on in the first leg due to a dubious penalty decision but after a breath-taking response the tie was as good as over in the first leg. Phil Neal hit a double and in addition to that Steve Heighway got himself in on the act to provide a comfortable 3-1 lead. The difference in class of the two sides was evident quite early on and the eventual 6-1 aggregate score line backed it up. The Reds were on their way to Rome but also a potential treble.
Unfortunately, those hopes were lost four days prior to meeting Borussia Monchengladbach in the final as they lost out on the FA Cup at the hands of bitter rivals Manchester United.
Misery turned into delight in Rome, though, as a place in the history books was secured. A tactical masterclass showed the quality in the side, with Liverpool inviting the Germans to attack before fiercely retrieving the ball back and attacking effectively. It was certainly beneficial and soon paid dividends with the lead coming before half time.
Things took a turn for the worst early in the second half however as Gladbach were able to equalise but then the control appeared with them. If it wasn’t for a superb save from Ray Clemence, things may have been different.
After riding a storm, Tommy Smith regained a lead and settle things back down. His bullet header nearly put the ball through the net. It was soon all to be settled when Keegan was brought down in the area, it was a glorious opportunity for the Reds to double their advantage and the reliable Neal didn’t disappoint. A 3-1 win and a first European Cup win.
What a night! Were you one of the 25,000 out in Rome supporting the Reds?