Paisley in Paris: 40 years since Bob’s third European Cup triumph with Liverpool

Nostalgia writer JAMES NOBLE remembers Liverpool’s dramatic late win over Real Madrid in Paris.

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On an idyllic Spring evening in 1981, the Merseysiders made it three continental successes in five seasons.

Alan Kennedy’s 81st-minute winner added victory in the French capital to Rome ‘77 and London ‘78, cementing Liverpool manager Bob Paisley’s place as a club legend – if he wasn’t one already.

Paris – on Wednesday May 27, 1981 – arguably represents one of the club’s most interesting European Cup triumphs.

This was not necessarily a Liverpool team at its peak. They had won the 1978/79 and 1979/80 First Division titles and would win it in each of the next three seasons, but had finished fifth in 1980/81.

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The sense of this being a team within a transition period of sorts is perhaps reflected by the fact that this was legendary goalkeeper Ray Clemence’s 665th and final appearance for the club. A 19-year-old Ian Rush, meanwhile, had played seven times by this stage without scoring.

He would, in fairness, have 30 by the end of ‘81/82.

Nonetheless, this was still a team who achieved a double in this campaign – having already secured the club’s first League Cup in early April. This was, at the very least, a team which knew how to win when it mattered. Which sensed the big moments and seized them. And plenty more aside, of course.

That trait, though, was on display in how this final was won. A largely tense, tight contest with limited chances was decided late on by the left-back who simply, admirably, went for it.


Bob Paisley’s side had overcome Finnish outfit Oulun Palloseura, Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen, CSKA Sofia and Bayern Munich to reach the Parc des Princes showpiece. Another heavyweight awaited them in the final, of course.

Real Madrid were, believe it or not, midway through a 32-year spell without a European Cup victory. Their most recent previous success, at this stage, had come in 1966.

This was still quite a team, though. England’s Laurie Cunningham and future Real Madrid and Spain manager Vicente del Bosque were just two of the notable names within the Spanish outfit’s starting XI.

Los Blancos had seen off Limerick, Honvéd, Spartak Moscow and Inter Milan en route to Paris after qualifying courtesy of their 1979/80 La Liga title. They wouldn’t be Spanish champions again until 1986, however.

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It was eventual match-winner Alan Kennedy who would come closest for the Merseysiders in the first half when his low 30-yard shot forced a diving save out of Agustín. Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness also sent well-struck attempts into the gloves of the goalkeeper before the interval, while José Camacho looped a clever volley narrowly wide of the left-hand post for Vujadin Boškov’s side.

Camacho should really have opened the scoring in the second half when he was sent through but, with Clemence advanced to the edge of his box, his chipped attempt drifted over. Which set the scene for Ray Kennedy to tee-up namesake Alan for the 81st minute winner.

The former’s throw from the left drifted onto the chest of the latter who used his momentum superbly to push the ball and himself beyond the static Rafael Garcia Cortés and into the box.

Then, with the angle tight and Agustín primed, he drilled a powerful left-footed shot over the dive of the goalkeeper and into the net.

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The sea of Red behind that goal went barmy and only got louder as the players raced after the goalscorer and towards them in celebration. They could keep celebrating.

Liverpool held the lead for the minutes that remained and almost built on it when Souness was denied impressively by Agustín from close-range. Captain Phil Thompson and his teammates scaled the steps and lifted that wonderful, shining, big-eared trophy into what was now an idyllic Paris night sky.

Liverpool FC’s third European Cup. Paisley’s third European Cup. Quite the feat for both.

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