By James Crump – @TheJamesCrump
Today we jump back to August 8th, 1992, to Liverpool’s clash with Leeds United in the Charity Shield.
The competition – renamed the Community Shield in 2002 – is either a competitive match or a ‘Mickey Mouse cup’, depending on who you talk to. It is rarely exciting, but the fixture in 1992 was an exception.
Leeds went into the match as the winners of the last ever First Division, whilst Liverpool qualified after winning their fifth FA Cup crown against Sunderland the previous May. Despite the fixture’s lowly status, it served as the curtain-raiser for the inaugural Premier League campaign, giving both teams an added incentive to start the season well.
Liverpool lined up with legends Bruce Grobbelaar and Ian Rush, plus Graeme Souness in the dugout. Leeds were captained by future Liverpool fan favourite Gary McAlllister and future Manchester United superstar Eric Cantona.
The game started slowly with both teams reintegrating themselves into proper football after a summer off. Liverpool came closest in the 21st minute, but Mike Marsh just couldn’t convert Mark Walters’ cross.
Liverpool came close twice more in the next five minutes, with Dean Saunders’ long-range strike being saved by Leeds stopper John Lukic. A few minutes later, Lukic came to the rescue again, saving Ronnie Whelan’s attempt from six yards out. Liverpool were getting closer and it seemed like just a matter of time before they would score.
Against the run of play, Leeds took the lead 25 minutes into the fixture, when Rod Wallace crossed to Cantona, who was never going to miss. The lead was against the run of play, but this Leeds team were used to winning.
Rush equalised in the 35th minute with a powerful header at the back post. Liverpool had been the better team up until the Leeds opener, and an equaliser was the least they deserved. They couldn’t stop the Whites scoring again before half time, though. A Leeds free-kick cannoned off the wall and fell to Tony Dorigo, who guided the ball into the bottom corner in the 43rd minute.
The Reds started the second-half strongly and Rush was denied a second by a fine save by Lukic, before Dean Saunders equalised with a powerful shot after capitalising on a loose ball at the edge of the Leeds box.
Cantona had a big reputation for volatility, but was also known for moments of sheer brilliance. This fixture was reserved for his greatness, and he made it 3-2 in the 77th minute before bagging his hat-trick and sealing the win for Leeds ten minutes later.
For his second, Cantona latched onto a knock-down by Wallace and smashed a half-volley into the bottom corner. For his third, the mercurial Frenchman and future Kronenbourg connoisseur peeled to the back post and nodded the ball into the Liverpool goal, aided by Grobbelaar’s misjudged attempt at defending the cross.
There was still time for Liverpool to force a nervy finish – Gordon Strachan comically attempted to stop Ronny Rosenthal’s shot on the line, but only juggled the ball between both feet before it slipped past him and over the line.
Sadly there was no final equaliser for Liverpool, and the match finished 4-3 with Leeds starting the season with a trophy. Leeds, however, couldn’t continue their form into the league season, narrowly avoided relegation and finishing 17th in a dismal campaign.
They sold Cantona to Manchester United in November, shortly after they were knocked out of the Champions League by Rangers. Their season went downhill, and finished with added misery when their former marksman won the first ever Premier League with his new club.
Liverpool endured another frustrating season, finishing in sixth place again. Saunders left the club in early September and, unlike the season before, they ended the season trophyless.
This year’s Community Shield was another competitive display, with both Manchester City and Liverpool clearly wanting to win. Just like in 1992, Liverpool narrowly lost the fixture. Let’s hope that, like that year, the team that won ends up in a relegation battle…