Saturday, September 2, 1978, produced what is widely seen as one of the best performances in Liverpool’s history as Bob Paisley’s side took apart Keith Burkinshaw’s North London outfit.
Some matches transcend seasons – and eras, even.
That Liverpool 7-0 Tottenham Hotspur transcends the 1978/79 league-winning season – and an era in which the Reds won 10 First Division titles over the course of 18 campaigns – speaks volumes.
Within the most successful couple of decades in the club’s history, that season’s team is commonly perceived to be one of the best Liverpool sides of all.
And still, this is a game that stands out, that defines – such was its quality.
Following Nottingham Forest’s First Division triumph of 1977/78, Paisley’s European champions had begun the new term with a 2-1 home success against Queens Park Rangers, followed by eye-catching 0-3 and 1-4 wins at Manchester City and Ipswich Town respectively.
Spurs’ visit on an idyllic early September afternoon would produce an all-together different level, however.
Against a team that – alongside Hoddle – featured new signings Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, who were fresh from winning the World Cup on home turf with Argentina, Liverpool were 3-0 up by half-time and had more than doubled their tally by the final whistle.
The seventh and final goal – Terry McDermott’s 76th-minute header – was majestic. As a goal, it feels like it itself transcends even such an exceptional game.
Kenny Dalglish had struck the opening two blows as Liverpool shot towards a buoyant Kop in the first half.
In the 8th minute, he intelligently span on Jimmy Case’s delivery to escape John Lacy and sent a low left-footed shot beyond goalkeeper Barry Daines.
In the 20th, the same duo combined as Case’s 20-yard attempt was coolly diverted into the net by Dalglish.
Eight minutes later, it was three. McDermott crossed from the right and Alan Kennedy’s far-post header sent the ball back across goal and in, via Lacy.
Spurs – who would only finish 11th in the 22-team First Division come May – had one of those entertaining indirect free-kicks inside the box later in the first half.
It saw Peter Taylor have a shot blocked before Lacy’s deflected effort was clawed away by Ray Clemence – who didn’t look in the mood to give up his clean sheet.
It was a moment that also proved a foundation for even more goals.Embed from Getty Images
Captain Emlyn Hughes had been replaced by David Johnson between the second and third goals – and it was Johnson who would got four and five early in the second half.
He hammered home a loose ball in the box in the 48th minute and then converted a clever Dalglish pass 10 minutes after that.
A brilliant goal-line clearance by John Duncan denied Johnson a quick-fire hat-trick before the familiarly lively Steve Heighway was fouled by Duncan and won a penalty.
Phil Neal had his first attempt saved by Daines but referee George Flint adjudged the ‘keeper to have been off his line and ordered a retake.
Neal duly planted it into the top-left corner to give the hosts a 6-0 lead with more than 25 minutes of normal time remaining.
There would be one more goal – and what a goal it was.
It started with a Spurs corner in front of The Kop.
Once it was cleared, Dalglish found the feet of Johnson just inside the Liverpool half.
The substitute took one touch before he drilled a sublime diagonal pass into the path of Heighway on the left and his first-time cross was perfectly flighted for McDermott who arrived in the box right on time to head it into the top-right corner.
“That must be the best goal Anfield has ever seen,” said Paisley post-match.
Some statement, given the manager’s length of service to the club.Embed from Getty Images
It was a goal worthy of the game and the team. Liverpool of 1978/79 remain one of the most highly regarded English champions for their dominance and the thrilling nature of so much of their football.
They would finish on 68 points – eight clear of second-placed Forest – at the top of the First Division.
With this still in the days where a win earned two rather than three points, their performance across the 42-game season would have produced a total of 98 in modern money.
Few games, if any, reflected the level of this side as thrillingly as Liverpool 7-0 Tottenham Hotspur.
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